Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 19 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

We held that Apprendi's sentence violated his right to "a jury determination that [he] is guilty of every element of the crime with which he is charged, beyond a reasonable doubt." Id., at 477 (quoting United States v. Gaudin, 515 U. S. 506, 510 (1995)). That right attached not only to Apprendi's weapons offense but also to the "hate crime" aggravating circumstance. New Jersey, the Court observed, "threatened Apprendi with certain pains if he unlawfully possessed a weapon and with additional pains if he selected his victims with a purpose to intimidate them because of their race." Apprendi, 530 U. S., at 476. "Merely using the label 'sentence enhancement' to describe the [second act] surely does not provide a principled basis for treating [the two acts] differently." Ibid.

The dispositive question, we said, "is one not of form, but of effect." Id., at 494. If a State makes an increase in a defendant's authorized punishment contingent on the finding of a fact, that fact—no matter how the State labels it—must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. See id., at 482-483. A defendant may not be "expose[d] . . . to a penalty exceeding the maximum he would receive if punished according to the facts reflected in the jury verdict alone." Id., at 483; see also id., at 499 (Scalia, J., concurring) ("[A]ll the facts which must exist in order to subject the defendant to a legally prescribed punishment must be found by the jury.").

Walton could be reconciled with Apprendi, the Court finally asserted. The key distinction, according to the Apprendi Court, was that a conviction of first-degree murder in Arizona carried a maximum sentence of death. "[O]nce a jury has found the defendant guilty of all the elements of an offense which carries as its maximum penalty the sentence of death, it may be left to the judge to decide whether that maximum penalty, rather than a lesser one, ought to be imposed." 530 U. S., at 497 (emphasis deleted) (quoting

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