California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 7 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 499 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

(1798) (opinion of Chase, J.); Beazell v. Ohio, 269 U. S. 167, 169-170 (1925)).

The legislation at issue here effects no change in the definition of respondent's crime. Instead, the question before us is whether the 1981 amendment to 3041.5 increases the "punishment" attached to respondent's crime. In arguing that it does, respondent relies chiefly on a trilogy of cases holding that a legislature may not stiffen the "standard of punishment" applicable to crimes that have already been committed. See Lindsey v. Washington, 301 U. S. 397, 401 (1937); Miller v. Florida, 482 U. S. 423 (1987); Weaver v. Graham, 450 U. S. 24 (1981).

In Lindsey, we established the proposition that the Constitution "forbids the application of any new punitive measure to a crime already consummated." 301 U. S., at 401. The petitioners in Lindsey had been convicted of grand larceny, and the sentencing provision in effect at the time they committed their crimes provided for a maximum sentence of "not more than fifteen years." Id., at 398. The applicable law called for sentencing judges to impose an indeterminate sentence up to whatever maximum they selected, so long as it did not exceed 15 years. Id., at 398, 400. Before the petitioners were sentenced, however, a new statute was passed that required the judge to sentence the petitioners to the 15-year maximum; under the new statute, the petitioners could secure an earlier release only through the grace of the parole board. Id., at 398-399. We held that the application of this statute to petitioners violated the Ex Post Facto Clause because "the measure of punishment prescribed by the later statute is more severe than that of the earlier." Id., at 401.

Weaver and Miller held that the Ex Post Facto Clause forbids the States to enhance the measure of punishment by altering the substantive "formula" used to calculate the applicable sentencing range. In Weaver, the petitioner had been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his crime of


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