Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545, 13 (2002)

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

Opinion of Kennedy, J.

Dept. of Highways and Public Transp., 483 U. S. 468, 494 (1987). Even in constitutional cases, in which stare decisis concerns are less pronounced, we will not overrule a precedent absent a "special justification." Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U. S. 203, 212 (1984).

The special justification petitioner offers is our decision in Apprendi, which, he says, cannot be reconciled with McMillan. Cf. Ring v. Arizona, post, at 609 (overruling Walton v. Arizona, 497 U. S. 639 (1990), because "Walton and Apprendi are irreconcilable"). We do not find the argument convincing. As we shall explain, McMillan and Apprendi are consistent because there is a fundamental distinction between the factual findings that were at issue in those two cases. Apprendi said that any fact extending the defend-ant's sentence beyond the maximum authorized by the jury's verdict would have been considered an element of an aggravated crime—and thus the domain of the jury—by those who framed the Bill of Rights. The same cannot be said of a fact increasing the mandatory minimum (but not extending the sentence beyond the statutory maximum), for the jury's verdict has authorized the judge to impose the minimum with or without the finding. As McMillan recognized, a statute may reserve this type of factual finding for the judge without violating the Constitution.

Though defining criminal conduct is a task generally "left to the legislative branch," Patterson v. New York, 432 U. S. 197, 210 (1977), Congress may not manipulate the definition of a crime in a way that relieves the Government of its constitutional obligations to charge each element in the indictment, submit each element to the jury, and prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, Jones, 526 U. S., at 240-241; Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U. S. 684, 699 (1975). McMillan and Apprendi asked whether certain types of facts, though labeled sentencing factors by the legislature, were nevertheless "traditional elements" to which these constitutional safe-


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