Blakely v. Washington, No. 02-1632 (U.S. June 24, 2004), No. 02-1632.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtScalia
Citation124 S.Ct. 2531,159 L.Ed.2d 403
Decision Date24 June 2004
Docket NumberNo. 02-1632.
PartiesRALPH HOWARD BLAKELY, Jr., PETITIONER v. WASHINGTON. CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF WASHINGTON.

Ralph Howard BLAKELY, Jr., PETITIONER
v.
WASHINGTON.

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF WASHINGTON.

No. 02-1632.
Supreme Court of United States.
Argued March 23, 2004.

Decided June 24, 2004.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. O'Connor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined, and in which Rehnquist, C.J., and Kennedy, J., joined except as to Part IV-B. Kennedy, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which O'Connor, J., joined.

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Ralph Howard Blakely, Jr., pleaded guilty to the kidnaping of his estranged wife. The facts admitted in his plea, standing alone, supported a maximum sentence of 53 months. Pursuant to state law, the court imposed an "exceptional" sentence of 90 months after making a judicial determination that he had acted with "deliberate cruelty." App. 40, 49. We consider whether this violated petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

I

Petitioner married his wife Yolanda in 1973. He was evidently a difficult man to live with, having been diagnosed at various times with psychological and personality disorders including paranoid schizophrenia. His wife ultimately filed for divorce. In 1998, he abducted her from their orchard home in Grant County, Washington, binding her with duct tape and forcing her at knifepoint into a wooden box in the bed of his pickup truck. In the process, he implored her to dismiss the divorce suit and related trust proceedings.

When the couple's 13-year-old son Ralphy returned home from school, petitioner ordered him to follow in another car, threatening to harm Yolanda with a shotgun if he did not do so. Ralphy escaped and sought help when they stopped at a gas station, but petitioner continued on with Yolanda to a friend's house in Montana. He was finally arrested after the friend called the police.

The State charged petitioner with first-degree kidnaping, Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.40.020(1) (2000).1 Upon reaching a plea agreement, however, it reduced the charge to second-degree kidnaping involving domestic violence and use of a firearm, see §§ 9A.40.030(1), 10.99.020(3)(p), 9.94A.125.2 Petitioner entered a guilty plea admitting the elements of second-degree kidnaping and the domestic-violence and firearm allegations, but no other relevant facts.

The case then proceeded to sentencing. In Washing-ton, second-degree kidnaping is a class B felony. § 9A.40.030(3). State law provides that "[n]o person convicted of a [class B] felony shall be punished by confinement . . . exceeding . . . a term of ten years." § 9A.20.021(1)(b). Other provisions of state law, however, further limit the range of sentences a judge may impose. Washington's Sentencing Reform Act specifies, for petitioner's offense of second-degree kidnaping with a firearm, a "standard range" of 49 to 53 months. See § 9.94A.320 (seriousness level V for second-degree kidnaping); App. 27 (offender score 2 based on § 9.94A.360); § 9.94A.310(1), box 2-V (standard range of 13-17 months); § 9.94A.310(3)(b) (36-month firearm enhancement).3 A judge may impose a sentence above the standard range if he finds "substantial and compelling reasons justifying an exceptional sentence." § 9.94A.120(2). The Act lists aggravating factors that justify such a departure, which it recites to be illustrative rather than exhaustive. § 9.94A.390. Nevertheless, "[a] reason offered to justify an exceptional sentence can be considered only if it takes into account factors other than those which are used in computing the standard range sentence for the offense." State v. Gore, 143 Wn.2d 288, 315-316, 21 P.3d 262, 277 (2001). When a judge imposes an exceptional sentence, he must set forth findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting it. § 9.94A.120(3). A reviewing court will reverse the sentence if it finds that "under a clearly erroneous standard there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the reasons for imposing an exceptional sentence." Gore, supra, at 315, 21 P.3d, at 277 (citing § 9.94A.210(4)).

Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State recommended a sentence within the standard range of 49 to 53 months. After hearing Yolanda's description of the kidnaping, however, the judge rejected the State's recommendation and imposed an exceptional sentence of 90 months — 37 months beyond the standard maximum.He justified the sentence on the ground that petitioner had acted with "deliberate cruelty," a statutorily enumerated ground for departure in domestic-violence cases. § 9.94A.390(2)(h)(iii).4

Faced with an unexpected increase of more than three years in his sentence, petitioner objected. The judge accordingly conducted a 3-day bench hearing featuring testimony from petitioner, Yolanda, Ralphy, a police officer, and medical experts. After the hearing, he issued 32 findings of fact, concluding:

"The defendant's motivation to commit kidnapping was complex, contributed to by his mental condition and personality disorders, the pressures of the divorce litigation, the impending trust litigation trial and anger over his troubled interpersonal relationships with his spouse and children. While he misguidedly intended to forcefully reunite his family, his attempt to do so was subservient to his desire to terminate lawsuits and modify title ownerships to his benefit.

"The defendant's methods were more homogeneous than his motive. He used stealth and surprise, and took advantage of the victim's isolation. He immediately employed physical violence, restrained the victim with tape, and threatened her with injury and death to herself and others. He immediately coerced the victim into providing information by the threatening application of a knife. He violated a subsisting restraining order."

App. 48-49.

The judge adhered to his initial determination of deliberate cruelty.

Petitioner appealed, arguing that this sentencing procedure deprived him of his federal constitutional right to have a jury determine beyond a reasonable doubt all facts legally essential to his sentence. The State Court of Appeals affirmed, 111 Wash. App. 851, 870-871, 47 P.3d 149, 159 (2002), relying on the Washington Supreme Court's rejection of a similar challenge in Gore, supra, at 311-315, 21 P.3d, at 275-277. The Washington Supreme Court denied discretionary review. 148 Wn.2d 1010, 62 P.3d 889 (2003). We granted certiorari. 540 U.S. 965 (2003).

II

This case requires us to apply the rule we expressed in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000): "Other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt." This rule reflects two longstanding tenets of common-law criminal jurisprudence: that the "truth of every accusation" against a defendant "should afterwards be confirmed by the unanimous suffrage of twelve of his equals and neighbours," 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 343 (1769), and that "an accusation which lacks any particular fact which the law makes essential to the punishment is . . . no accusation within the requirements of the common law, and it is no accusation in reason," 1 J. Bishop, Criminal Procedure § 87, p. 55 (2d ed. 1872).5 These principles have been acknowledged by courts and treatises since the earliest days of graduated sentencing; we compiled the relevant authorities in Apprendi, see 530 U.S., at 476-483, 489-490, n. 15; id., at 501-518 (Thomas, J., concurring), and need not repeat them here.6

Apprendi involved a New Jersey hate-crime statute that authorized a 20-year sentence, despite the usual 10-year maximum, if the judge found the crime to have been committed "`with a purpose to intimidate . . . because of race, color, gender, handicap, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.'" Id., at 468-469 (quoting N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:44-3(e) (West Supp. 1999-2000)). In Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 592-593, and n. 1 (2002), we applied Apprendi to an Arizona law that authorized the death penalty if the judge found one of ten aggravating factors. In each case, we concluded that the defendant's constitutional rights had been violated because the judge had imposed a sentence greater than the maximum he could have imposed under state law without the challenged factual finding. Apprendi, supra, at 491-497; Ring, supra, at 603-609.

In this case, petitioner was sentenced to more than three years above the 53-month statutory maximum of the standard range because he had acted with "deliberate cruelty." The facts supporting that finding were neither admitted by petitioner nor found by a jury. The State nevertheless contends that there was no Apprendi violation because the relevant "statutory maximum" is not 53 months, but the 10-year maximum for class B felonies in § 9A.20.021(1)(b). It observes that no exceptional sentence may exceed that limit. See § 9.94A.420. Our precedents make clear, however, that the "statutory maximum" for Apprendi purposes is the maximum sentence a judge may impose solely on the basis of the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant. See Ring, supra, at 602 (" `the maximum he would receive if punished according to the facts reflected in the jury verdict alone'" (quoting Apprendi, supra, at 483)); Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545, 563 (2002) (plurality opinion) (same); cf. Apprendi, supra, at 488 (facts admitted by the defendant). In other words, the relevant "statutory maximum" is not the maximum sentence a judge may impose after finding additional facts, but the maximum he may impose without any additional findings. When a judge inflicts punishment that the jury's verdict alone does not allow, the jury has not found all the facts "which the law makes essential to the punishment," Bishop,...

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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • June 21, 2005
    ...a preponderance challenge, we reject these arguments as without merit. Insofar as defendants invoke Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004), to support a Sixth Amendment challenge to the Guidelines that was never presented to the district court, we review......
  • U.S. v. Leahy, No. 03-4490.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • February 15, 2006
    ...evidence standard violated their Sixth Amendment right in light of the Supreme Court's decisions in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004), and The Leahy defendants' Sixth Amendment argument with respect to forfeiture cannot be reconciled with the Suprem......
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8800 cases
  • U.S. v. Waltower, No. 09–3967.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 5, 2011
    ...may impose solely on the basis of the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant.” Blakely, 542 U.S. 296, 303, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004). The holding in Blakely seriously undermined the federal sentencing guidelines, even if it did not demand their demise.......
  • United States v. Home Concrete & Supply, LLC, No. 11–139.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 25, 2012
    ...the three branches of Government on questions of statutory interpretation and application. See Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 326, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004) (KENNEDY, J., dissenting) (“Constant, constructive discourse between our courts and our legislatures is an integral......
  • U.S. v. Garcia, Docket No. 03-1407-CR(L).
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • June 21, 2005
    ...a preponderance challenge, we reject these arguments as without merit. Insofar as defendants invoke Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004), to support a Sixth Amendment challenge to the Guidelines that was never presented to the district court, we review......
  • U.S. v. Leahy, No. 03-4490.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • February 15, 2006
    ...evidence standard violated their Sixth Amendment right in light of the Supreme Court's decisions in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004), and The Leahy defendants' Sixth Amendment argument with respect to forfeiture cannot be reconciled with the Suprem......
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