Ruling On Sentencing Opens Door To Challenges

2000

In Apprendi v. New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates a New Jersey hate-crime law, ruling that it violates the Sixth Amendment by improperly allowing a judge, and not a jury, to decide that the crime was motivated by racial bias, thereby increasing the penalty. The justices rule that any factor that would increase the penalty for a crime beyond the “prescribed statutory maximum,” other than a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court’s dissenters warn the decision will cause widespread turmoil as sentencing procedures in other contexts will be challenged.