In this criminal case, petitioner fired several shots into the home of an African-American family and made a statement which he later retracted that he did not want the family in his neighborhood because of their race. A New Jersey Criminal Lawyer said that, he was charged under New Jersey law with, second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, (possession of a weapon), which carries a prison term of 5 to 10 years. The count did not refer to the State’s hate crime statute, which provides for an enhanced sentence if a trial judge finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant committed the crime with a purpose to intimidate a person or group because of, inter alia, race. After petitioner pleaded guilty, a New York Criminal Lawyer said that the prosecutor filed a motion to enhance the sentence. The court found by a preponderance of the evidence that the shooting was racially motivated and sentenced petitioner to a 12-year term on the firearms count. In upholding the sentence, the appeals court rejected petitioner’s claim that the Due Process Clause requires that a bias finding be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The State Supreme Court affirmed.
The issue in this case is whether petitioner has been denied of his right to due process.
The Court held that the Constitution requires that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum, other than the fact of a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.