Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545, 5 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 545 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Kennedy announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and IV, and an opinion with respect to Part III, in which The Chief Justice, Justice O'Connor, and Justice Scalia join.

Once more we consider the distinction the law has drawn between the elements of a crime and factors that influence a criminal sentence. Legislatures define crimes in terms of the facts that are their essential elements, and constitutional guarantees attach to these facts. In federal prosecutions, "[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury" alleging all the elements of the crime. U. S. Const., Amdt. 5; see Hamling v. United States, 418 U. S. 87, 117 (1974). "In all criminal prosecutions," state and federal, "the accused shall enjoy the right to . . . trial . . . by an impartial jury," U. S. Const., Amdt. 6; see Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149 (1968), at which the government must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, see In re Winship, 397 U. S. 358, 364 (1970).

Yet not all facts affecting the defendant's punishment are elements. After the accused is convicted, the judge may impose a sentence within a range provided by statute, basing it on various facts relating to the defendant and the manner in which the offense was committed. Though these facts may have a substantial impact on the sentence, they are not elements, and are thus not subject to the Constitution's indictment, jury, and proof requirements. Some statutes also direct judges to give specific weight to certain facts when choosing the sentence. The statutes do not require these

of Nevada, Betty D. Montgomery of Ohio, D. Michael Fisher of Pennsylvania, Mark Barnett of South Dakota, Paul G. Summers of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mark L. Shurtleff of Utah, William Sorrell of Vermont, Elliot M. Davis of the Virgin Islands, and Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., of West Virginia; and for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation by Kent S. Scheidegger and Charles L. Hobson.


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