Alleyne v. United States

PETITIONER: Allen Ryan Alleyne
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Mapco/East Coast Convenience Store

DOCKET NO.: 11-9335
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 570 US (2013)
GRANTED: Oct 05, 2012
ARGUED: Jan 14, 2013
DECIDED: Jun 17, 2013

Michael R. Dreeben - Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent
Mary E. Maguire - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

On October 1, 2009, Allen Ryan Alleyne and two accomplices robbed the store manager of a Mapco/East Coast convenience store in Petersburg, Virginia as he was dropping off the nightly deposit at the bank. In April 2010, after an extensive investigation, the authorities arrested Alleyne and a grand jury indicted him for robbery and possessing a firearm. On September 7, 2010, after a week-long trial, the jury convicted Alleyne on both counts and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced him to 130 months imprisonment.

Alleyne appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, claiming the district court made three specific errors: 1) the evidence against him wasn't strong enough to support his convictions; 2) he was convicted of aiding and abetting the robbery and not carrying it out, which changed his original indictment; and 3) he should not have received a mandatory 7 year sentence for possession of a firearm. The Fourth Circuit rejected all three of his claims. First, the appellate court refused to overrule the jury's decision on the strength of the evidence because a jury is best equipped to determine whether evidence is credible. Second, since aiding and abetting a crime is not itself a separate offense, it does not need to be included in the indictment and does not change the original charge. Finally, there was no indication that the district court should not have imposed the minimum sentence for possessing a firearm.


1. Did the district court find enough evidence to convict Alleyne for armed robbery?

2. Did convicting Alleyne of aiding and abetting the robbery change the original indictment?

3. Should the court have imposed a minimum sentence for possession of a firearm in relation to a robbery?

Media for Alleyne v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 2013 in Alleyne v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 2013 in Alleyne v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Thomas has our opinion this morning, case 11-9335, Alleyne v. United States.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

A jury found the petitioner Allen Ryan Alleyne guilty of multiple federal offenses for his participation in an armed robbery.

One of his convictions was for using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

That conviction carried a sentencing range of five year to life imprisonment, but if the Court found that petitioner brandished the gun, his mandatory sentence automatically increased to seven years.

At sentencing, the government presented evidence of brandishing to the judge.

The judge ultimately determined that petitioner had brandished a gun thus triggering the seven-year mandatory minimum.

Unable to impose a lower sentence, the judge sentenced petitioner seven years.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed petitioner sentence.

Petitioner claims that the application of the seven-year mandatory minimum violated his Sixth Amendment right to jury trial.

We agree.

We have long held that the Sixth Amendment requires each element of a crime to be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

In order to enforce this right, we must know which facts can constitute elements of a crime.

Legislators have brought authority to define the elements of crimes, but this authority has limits.

In Apprendi versus New Jersey, we held that any fact other than the fact of a prior conviction that increases a defendant's maximum sentence is an element of the crime, even if the legislature did not label it as such.

We explained that this rule was consistent with the historical understanding of the jury trial right and helped to preserve the role of the jury as a buffer between the state and the criminal defendants.

This case requires us to decide whether facts increasing the mandatory minimum sentence are elements of the crime that must be proved to a jury beyond reasonable doubt.

Under Apprendi, any fact that exposes a defendant to a punishment greater than that otherwise legally prescribed is by definition and element of a separate legal offense.

We hold that this principle applies with equal force to facts that increased the mandatory minimum.

First, increasing the floor of a sentencing range alters the penalty attached to the crime because a floor and the ceiling have arranged together constitute a penalty.

Second, it is clear that moving the range upward even if only by racing the floor makes the punishment affixed to the crime more severe.

The defendants expected punishment has increased as a result of the narrowed range and the judge must impose a greater punishment if he finds the fact triggering the mandatory minimum even if he would rather impose a lower sentence.

Taking these two points together, it follows that facts increasing the mandatory minimum sentence are within the principle established by Apprendi and therefore, must be found by jury beyond reasonable doubt.

In this case, based on the jury's finding along, petitioner was only subject to a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

However, the District Court applied a seven-year mandatory minimum based on it's finding that petitioner had brandished the gun.

For the above reasons and other reasons set forth in our opinion, we conclude that this sentence violated petitioner's Sixth Amendment right -- Sixth Amendment jury trial right.

We, therefore, vacate this -- his sentence on the firearm count and remand for resentencing.

Justice Sotomayor has filed a concurring opinion.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Scalia and Kennedy have joined.

Justice Alito has also filed a dissenting opinion.