S. Union Co. v. United States, No. 11–94.

CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation183 L.Ed.2d 318,132 S.Ct. 2344,567 U.S. 343
Docket NumberNo. 11–94.
Decision Date21 June 2012
Parties SOUTHERN UNION COMPANY, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES.

567 U.S. 343
132 S.Ct.
2344
183 L.Ed.2d 318

SOUTHERN UNION COMPANY, Petitioner
v.
UNITED STATES.

No. 11–94.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 19, 2012.
Decided June 21, 2012.


Carter G. Phillips, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Michael R. Dreeben, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Daniel R. Benson, Eric D. Herschmann, David E. Ross, Seth B. Davis, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP, New York, NY, Carter G. Phillips, Counsel of Record, Jeffrey T. Green, Jacqueline G. Cooper, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General, Nicole A. Saharsky, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Andrew C. Mergen, Allen M. Brabender, Nicholas A. DiMascio, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for United States.

Justice SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

567 U.S. 346

The Sixth Amendment reserves to juries the determination of any fact, other than the fact of a prior conviction, that increases a criminal defendant's maximum potential sentence. Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000) ; Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004). We have applied this principle in numerous cases where the sentence was imprisonment or death. The question here is whether the same rule

132 S.Ct. 2349

applies to sentences of criminal fines. We hold that it does.

I

Petitioner Southern Union Company is a natural gas distributor. Its subsidiary stored liquid mercury, a hazardous substance, at a facility in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In September 2004, youths from a nearby apartment complex broke into the facility, played with the mercury, and spread it around the facility and complex. The complex's residents were temporarily displaced during the cleanup and most underwent testing for mercury poisoning.

In 2007, a grand jury indicted Southern Union on multiple counts of violating federal environmental statutes. As relevant here, the first count alleged that the company knowingly stored liquid mercury without a permit at the Pawtucket facility "[f]rom on or about September 19, 2002 until on or about October 19, 2004," App. 104, in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). See 90 Stat. 2812, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 6928(d)(2)(A). A jury convicted Southern Union on this count following a trial in the District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The

567 U.S. 347

verdict form stated that Southern Union was guilty of unlawfully storing liquid mercury "on or about September 19, 2002 to October 19, 2004." App. 140.

Violations of the RCRA are punishable by, inter alia, "a fine of not more than $50,000 for each day of violation." § 6928(d). At sentencing, the probation office set a maximum fine of $38.1 million, on the basis that Southern Union violated the RCRA for each of the 762 days from September 19, 2002, through October 19, 2004. Southern Union objected that this calculation violated Apprendi because the jury was not asked to determine the precise duration of the violation. The company noted that the verdict form listed only the violation's approximate start date (i.e., "on or about"), and argued that the court's instructions permitted conviction if the jury found even a 1–day violation. Therefore, Southern Union maintained, the only violation the jury necessarily found was for one day, and imposing any fine greater than the single-day penalty of $50,000 would require factfinding by the court, in contravention of Apprendi .

The Government acknowledged the jury was not asked to specify the duration of the violation, but argued that Apprendi does not apply to criminal fines. The District Court disagreed and held that Apprendi applies. But the court concluded from the "content and context of the verdict all together" that the jury found a 762–day violation. App. to Pet. for Cert. 46a. The court therefore set a maximum potential fine of $38.1 million, from which it imposed a fine of $6 million and a "community service obligatio[n]" of $12 million. App. 154.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the District Court's conclusion that the jury necessarily found a violation of 762 days. 630 F.3d 17, 36 (2010). But the Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence because it also held, again in contrast to the District Court, that Apprendi does not apply to criminal fines. 630 F.3d, at 33–36. Other Circuits have reached the opposite conclusion.

567 U.S. 348

See United States v. Pfaff, 619 F.3d 172 (C.A.2 2010)(per curiam) ; United States v. LaGrou Distribution Sys., Inc., 466 F.3d 585 (C.A.7 2006). We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict, 565 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 756, 181 L.Ed.2d 479 (2011), and now reverse.

II

A

This case requires us to consider the scope of the Sixth Amendment right of

132 S.Ct. 2350

jury trial, as construed in Apprendi . Under Apprendi, "[o]ther 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." 530 U.S., at 490, 120 S.Ct. 2348. 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." Blakely, 542 U.S., at 303, 124 S.Ct. 2531 (emphasis deleted). Thus, while judges may exercise discretion in sentencing, they may not "inflic[t] punishment that the jury's verdict alone does not allow." Id., at 304, 124 S.Ct. 2531.

Apprendi 's rule is "rooted in longstanding common-law practice." Cunningham v. California, 549 U.S. 270, 281, 127 S.Ct. 856, 166 L.Ed.2d 856 (2007). It preserves the "historic jury function" of "determining whether the prosecution has proved each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt." Oregon v. Ice, 555 U.S. 160, 163, 129 S.Ct. 711, 172 L.Ed.2d 517 (2009). We have repeatedly affirmed this rule by applying it to a variety of sentencing schemes that allowed judges to find facts that increased a defendant's maximum authorized sentence. See Cunningham, 549 U.S., at 274–275, 127 S.Ct. 856 (elevated "upper term" of imprisonment); United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 226–227, 233–234, 125 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed.2d 621 (2005) (increased imprisonment range for defendant under then-mandatory Federal Sentencing Guidelines); Blakely, 542 U.S., at 299–300, 124 S.Ct. 2531 (increased imprisonment above statutorily prescribed "standard range"); Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 588–589, 122 S.Ct. 2428, 153 L.Ed.2d 556 (2002) (death penalty authorized upon finding existence

567 U.S. 349

of aggravating factors); Apprendi, 530 U.S., at 468–469, 120 S.Ct. 2348 (extended term of imprisonment based on violation of a "hate crime" statute).

While the punishments at stake in those cases were imprisonment or a death sentence, we see no principled basis under Apprendi for treating criminal fines differently. Apprendi 's"core concern" is to reserve to the jury "the determination of facts that warrant punishment for a specific statutory offense." Ice, 555 U.S., at 170, 129 S.Ct. 711. That concern applies whether the sentence is a criminal fine or imprisonment or death. Criminal fines, like these other forms of punishment, are penalties inflicted by the sovereign for the commission of offenses. Fines were by far the most common form of noncapital punishment in colonial America.1 They are frequently imposed today, especially upon organizational defendants who cannot be imprisoned.2 And the amount of a fine, like the maximum term of imprisonment or eligibility for the death penalty, is often calculated by reference to particular facts. Sometimes, as here, the fact is the duration

132 S.Ct. 2351

of a statutory violation;3 under other statutes it is the amount

567 U.S. 350

of the defendant's gain or the victim's loss, or some other factor.4 In all such cases, requiring juries to find beyond a reasonable doubt facts that determine the fine's maximum amount is necessary to implement Apprendi 's"animating principle": the "preservation of the jury's historic role as a bulwark between the State and the accused at the trial for an alleged offense." Ice, 555 U.S., at 168, 129 S.Ct. 711. In stating Apprendi 's rule, we have never distinguished one form of punishment from another. Instead, our decisions broadly prohibit judicial factfinding that increases maximum criminal "sentence[s]," "penalties," or "punishment [s]"—terms that each undeniably embrace fines. E.g., Blakely, 542 U.S., at 304, 124 S.Ct. 2531; Apprendi, 530 U.S., at 490, 120 S.Ct. 2348; Ring, 536 U.S., at 589, 122 S.Ct. 2428.

The Government objects, however, that fines are less onerous than incarceration and the death sentence. The Government notes that A...

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108 practice notes
  • Raines v. State, S20A0181
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2020
    ...856, 166 L.Ed.2d 856 (2007) ; Oregon v. Ice , 555 U.S. 160, 129 S.Ct. 711, 172 L.Ed.2d 517 (2009) ; Southern Union Co. v. United States , 567 U.S. 343, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318 (2012) ; Alleyne v. United States , 570 U.S. 99, 133 S.Ct. 2151, 186 L.Ed.2d 314 (2013) ; Hurst v. Florida ......
  • United States v. Blount, CASE NO. 3:15-CR-30002-PKH-MEF-1
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Arkansas
    • July 14, 2017
    ...98) In this amendment, Blount argued that the restitution award was unconstitutional in light of Southern Union Company v. United States, 567 U.S. 343, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318 (2012). (Doc. 98, pp. 1, 3) Blount contends that it was improper for the Government to solicit "so-called v......
  • People v. Henriquez, S089311
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 7, 2017
    ...at p. 490, 120 S.Ct. 2348.) This rule applies to the imposition of fines in criminal cases. ( Southern Union Co. v. United States (2012) 567 U.S. 343, 346, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318.)Here, however, the trial court did not find any fact that increased the prescribed range of penalties ......
  • Emhart Indus., Inc. v. New Eng. Container Co., C.A. No. 06–218 S
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • August 17, 2017
    ...States v. S. Union Co., 643 F.Supp.2d 201, 211–12 (D.R.I. 2009), aff'd, 630 F.3d 17 (1st Cir. 2010), rev'd and remanded on other grounds, 567 U.S. 343, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318 (2012). Therefore, to justify the remedy, EPA cannot merely show that it followed EPA guidelines in classif......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
104 cases
  • Raines v. State, S20A0181
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2020
    ...856, 166 L.Ed.2d 856 (2007) ; Oregon v. Ice , 555 U.S. 160, 129 S.Ct. 711, 172 L.Ed.2d 517 (2009) ; Southern Union Co. v. United States , 567 U.S. 343, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318 (2012) ; Alleyne v. United States , 570 U.S. 99, 133 S.Ct. 2151, 186 L.Ed.2d 314 (2013) ; Hurst v. Florida ......
  • United States v. Blount, CASE NO. 3:15-CR-30002-PKH-MEF-1
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Arkansas
    • July 14, 2017
    ...98) In this amendment, Blount argued that the restitution award was unconstitutional in light of Southern Union Company v. United States, 567 U.S. 343, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318 (2012). (Doc. 98, pp. 1, 3) Blount contends that it was improper for the Government to solicit "so-called v......
  • People v. Henriquez, S089311
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 7, 2017
    ...at p. 490, 120 S.Ct. 2348.) This rule applies to the imposition of fines in criminal cases. ( Southern Union Co. v. United States (2012) 567 U.S. 343, 346, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318.)Here, however, the trial court did not find any fact that increased the prescribed range of penalties ......
  • Emhart Indus., Inc. v. New Eng. Container Co., C.A. No. 06–218 S
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • August 17, 2017
    ...States v. S. Union Co., 643 F.Supp.2d 201, 211–12 (D.R.I. 2009), aff'd, 630 F.3d 17 (1st Cir. 2010), rev'd and remanded on other grounds, 567 U.S. 343, 132 S.Ct. 2344, 183 L.Ed.2d 318 (2012). Therefore, to justify the remedy, EPA cannot merely show that it followed EPA guidelines in classif......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • THE BURDENS OF THE EXCESSIVE FINES CLAUSE.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 2, November 2021
    • November 1, 2021
    ...fine, as we have indicated, was the sanction par excellence of'provincial criminal justice."); see also S. Union Co. v. United States, 567 U.S. 343, 349 (2012) ("Fines were by far the most common form of noncapital punishment in colonial (90.) See BISHOP, supra note 84. [section] 626; 1 J. ......

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