Apprendi v. New Jersey

LOCATION: Hawaii Office of Elections

DOCKET NO.: 99-478
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: New Jersey Supreme Court

CITATION: 530 US 466 (2000)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 2000
DECIDED: Jun 26, 2000

Edward C. DuMont - Argued the cause on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent
Joseph D. O'Neill - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Lisa S. Gochman - Trenton, New Jersey, argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Charles C. Apprendi, Jr. fired several shots into the home of an African- American family. While in custody, Apprendi made a statement, which he later retracted, that he did not want the family in his neighborhood because of their race. Apprendi was charged under New Jersey law with second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, which carries a prison term of 5 to 10 years. The count did not refer to the state's hate crime statute, which provides for an enhanced sentence if a trial judge finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant committed the crime with a purpose to intimidate a person or group because of race. After Apprendi pleaded guilty, the prosecutor filed a motion to enhance the sentence. The court found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the shooting was racially motivated and sentenced Apprendi to a 12-year term on the firearms count. In upholding the sentence, the appeals court rejected Apprendi's claim that the Due Process Clause requires that a bias finding be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The State Supreme Court affirmed.


Does the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment require that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt?

Media for Apprendi v. New Jersey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 2000 in Apprendi v. New Jersey

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 26, 2000 in Apprendi v. New Jersey

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 99-478, Apprendi v. New Jersey will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

I am happy to be on the majority in this case.

The case comes to us from the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

It originated in a town called Vineland, New Jersey where the defendant one evening, late in night, I should say about 2 O’clock in the morning, after he consumed a good deal of alcohol, fired several bullets at a house that was occupied by an African-American family.

He was picked up by the police about an hour later and acknowledged the shooting and was therefore indicted for the crime of unlawful possession of a weapon, which is a second degree offence in New Jersey that carries a sentence of from five to ten years, and he pleaded guilty to that offence.

But there is a separate statute in New Jersey that’s called a hate crime law, and it provides for an extended term of imprisonment if a crime is committed with the purpose to intimidate an individual or group because of race, color, or gender, or handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and if the extended term is authorized by a finding of that crime, the sentence, instead of, being from five to ten years is from 10 to 20 years.

Under the extended term statute, the New Jersey legislature has provided that the finding should be made by a judge based on the preponderance of the evidence rather than by a jury based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt as is customary for elements of a crime.

Back in 1970, in a case called In re Winship, we held that the Due Process Clause protects the accused against conviction upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.

Now, in this case, the judge did find the unlawful bias and therefore imposed the sentence in excess, what would otherwise be the maximum of ten years, he imposed a 12 year sentence for this crime, and the question is whether for the finding that authorized that sentence had to be made by a jury on the higher standard of proof or was it permissible on the preponderance of the evidence.

The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the sentence and regranted certiorari to review that holding and today we reverse that judgment.

We conclude that the fact that has that importance in the sentencing scheme that it raises the maximum sentence from10 to 20 years, is one that has to be found by the jury and on the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Justice Scalia has filed a concurring opinion.

He ends with the sentence, “The guarantee that in all criminal prosecution the accused shall enjoy the right to trial by an impartial jury, has no intelligible content unless it means that all the facts which must exist in order to subject the defendant to illegally prescribe punishment must be found by the jury.”

That’s the essence of the holding of the majority.

In addition to Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion, Justice Thomas has filed a concurring opinion which is joined by Justice Scalia, which carefully reviews the history of that provision.

Justice O’Conner has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice, Justice Kennedy and Justice Breyer joined, and Justice Breyer has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice joins.