Blakeley v. Washington

542 U.S. 296 (2004)

 

RULE:

Other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

FACTS:

Petitioner pled guilty to kidnapping his estranged wife. Pursuant to state law, the trial court imposed an "exceptional" sentence of 90 months after making a judicial determination that he acted with “deliberate cruelty.” Petitioner was sentenced to more than three years above the 53-month statutory maximum of the standard range because he had acted with "deliberate cruelty,” but the facts supporting that finding were neither admitted by petitioner nor found by a jury. Petitioner appealed, arguing the sentencing procedure violated his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. The State Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Washington Supreme Court denied discretionary review. Certiorari was granted.

ISSUE:

Can a reason offered to justify an exceptional sentence be considered if it takes into account only factors used in computing the standard range sentence for the offense?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The judge in the case could not have imposed the exceptional 90-month sentence solely on the basis of the facts admitted in the guilty plea. Those facts alone were insufficient because a reason offered to justify an exceptional sentence could be considered only if it took into account factors other than those which were used in computing the standard range sentence for the offense, which in this case included the elements of second-degree kidnapping and the use of a firearm. Had the judge imposed the 90-month sentence solely on the basis of the plea, he would have been reversed; the jury's verdict alone did not authorize the sentence. The judge acquired that authority only upon finding some additional fact. Because the State's sentencing procedure did not comply with the Sixth Amendment, petitioner's sentence was invalid. The judgment of the Washington Court of Appeals was REVERSED, and the case was REMANDED for further proceedings.

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