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The Champion

June 2003 , Page 10 

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The Irony of Apprendi

By Mark Allenbaugh

In Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), the Court held that “it is unconstitutional for a legislature to remove from the jury the assessment of facts that increase the prescribed range of penalties to which a criminal defendant is exposed. It is equally clear that such facts must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” The circuit courts have continued to wrestle with whether this language requires facts triggering mandatory minimum penalties to be treated as elements of the offense.  

In Harris v. United States, 122 S. Ct. 2406 (2002), despite five justices agreeing that the logic of Apprendi’s holding applies to facts triggering mandatory minimums, a plurality of the Court nevertheless held that facts triggering mandatory minimum penalties in firearms cases need not be treated as elements. (Conceding that Apprendi applies to mandatory minimum sentencing structures, Justice Breyer, a dissenter in Apprendi, declined to apply Apprendi to the firear

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