United States v. Alleyne gives an important victory to federal criminal defendants

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Supreme Court’s decision today in United States v. Alleyne gives an important victory to federal criminal defendants. In a 5-4 opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for an offense is an “element” of the offense and therefore must be alleged in the indictment, submitted to the jury, and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In so holding, the Court overruled its prior decision to the contrary in Harris v. United States (2002). Justice Stephen Breyer, who switched his position on the issue since Harris was decided eleven years ago, joined the majority opinion in part and concurred in the judgment.

Cornell University Law School article