California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 8 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

second-degree murder. Both at the time of his crime and at the time his sentence was imposed, state statutes provided a formula for mandatory reductions to the terms of all prisoners who complied with certain prison regulations and state laws. The statute that the petitioner challenged and that we invalidated retroactively reduced the amount of "gain time" credits available to prisoners under this formula. Though the statute preserved the possibility that some prisoners might win back these credits if they convinced prison officials to exercise their discretion to find that they were especially deserving, see 450 U. S., at 34, n. 18, we found that it effectively eliminated the lower end of the possible range of prison terms. Id., at 26-27, 31-33. The statute at issue in Miller contained a similar defect. The Florida sentencing scheme had established "presumptive sentencing ranges" for various offenses, which sentencing judges were required to follow in the absence of "clear and convincing reasons" for a departure. At the time that the petitioner in Miller committed his crime, his presumptive sentencing range would have been 31/2 to 41/2 years. Before his sentencing, however, the state legislature altered the formula for establishing the presumptive sentencing range for certain sexual offenses by increasing the "primary offense points" assigned to those crimes. As a result, petitioner's presumptive range jumped to 51/2 to 7 years. We held that the resulting increase in the "quantum of punishment" violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. 482 U. S., at 433-434.3

3 Our opinions in Lindsey, Weaver, and Miller suggested that enhancements to the measure of criminal punishment fall within the ex post facto prohibition because they operate to the "disadvantage" of covered offenders. See Lindsey, 301 U. S., at 401; Weaver, 450 U. S., at 29; Miller, 482 U. S., at 433. But that language was unnecessary to the results in those cases and is inconsistent with the framework developed in Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U. S. 37, 41 (1990). After Collins, the focus of the ex post facto inquiry is not on whether a legislative change produces some ambiguous sort of "disadvantage," nor, as the dissent seems to suggest, on whether an amendment affects a prisoner's "opportunity to take advan-

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