The Supreme Court has ruled that heavy sentences for repeat sex offenders cannot be handed out by judges without the defendant appearing at a jury trial. The ruling came on an appeal of a case involving Andre Haymond. Haymond was sentenced to an additional five years in prison upon learning that he had violated the terms of his parole when he was found to be in possession of child pornography.
The additional five years is a mandatory minimum, according to Section 3583(K) of Title 18. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, in overturning Haymond’s additional five-year sentence, the following:
The law “imposes heightened punishment on sex offenders based, not on their original crimes of conviction, but on new conduct for which they have not been convicted by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Haymond was already serving a 10-year sentence of supervised release when a surprise search of his home by probation officers discovered child pornography in 2015. Haymond was only two years into his 10-year sentence that came from a child pornography conviction.
The Ruling from the Supreme Court
The justices who joined the plurality decision were Neil Gorsuch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in full. Justice Stephen Breyer only concurred in the judgment. Justice Gorsuch wrote the opinion, stating the following:
“Only a jury, acting on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, may take a person’s liberty. That promise stands as one of the Constitution’s most vital protections against arbitrary government. Yet in this case, a congressional statute compelled a federal judge to send a man to prison for a minimum of five years without empaneling a jury of his peers or requiring the government to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As applied here, we do not hesitate to hold that the statute violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.”
The remaining justices, from the conservative side of the court, dissented with the ruling. The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Alito wrote the following:
“The plurality opinion is irreconcilable with precedent and sports rhetoric with potentially revolutionary implications. The plurality opinion appears to have been carefully crafted for the purpose of laying the groundwork for later decisions of much broader scope. In short, under the plurality opinion, the whole system of supervised release would be like a 40-ton truck speeding down a steep mountain road with no brakes.”
The justices who joined the dissent with Justice Alito included Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. All of them joined the dissent opinion in full.
The Department of Justice had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling from the appeals court, which stated that the mandatory-minimum law is constitutional and that supervised release is conditional. The Department of Justice also asked the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling from the appeals court by claiming that supervised release has the stipulation that if the defendant cannot comply with the terms, returning to prison is an option.
Contact an Experienced Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Sexual Assault Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged with sexual assault in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Stephen R. Piper have successfully represented clients charged with sexual assault in Camden, Cherry Hill, Evesham, Moorestown and throughout New Jersey. Call 856-351-5335 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 212 W Route 38, Suite 440 in Moorestown, NJ 08057.
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Disorderly conduct consists of any improper behavior such as fighting, threats of violence, or creating a dangerous atmosphere.