Supervised Release – The Sixth Amendment prohibits a court from imposing a sentence exceeding a term of supervised release without a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court struck down 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k) as unconstitutional and in violation of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee to a jury trial. Under § 3583(k), district courts were required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years upon revocation of supervised release for certain offenses, regardless of the length of the original term of supervised release.
Citing Apprendi v. New Jersey, the Court held that the § 3583(k) impermissibly allowed courts to impose prison sentences in excess of a defendant’s original sentence based on a judge’s finding by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant committed one of the enumerated offenses under § 3583(k) while on supervised release. This essentially allowed the government to impose additional punishment on the defendant for a new offense without a jury finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, in violation of the Sixth and Fifth Amendments.
Justice Breyer concurred in the judgment, emphasizing the differences between supervised release and parole and the differences between § 3583(k) revocations and an “ordinary” case of supervised-release revocation, namely the lack of discretion a judge has to impose a mandatory minimum for violations of § 3583(k). Justice Breyer declined to apply the Apprendi-line of cases to supervised release.
Justice Alito dissented, arguing that the majority opinion had “potentially revolutionary implications” as an attack on the entire supervised-release regime. Responding to the majority opinion broadly defining “criminal prosecution” to include sentencing and supervised release, the dissent warns that the majority opinion was “suggestive in dangerous ways” that the jury trial requirement should be applied to any supervised-release revocation proceeding.
On certiorari to the Tenth Circuit
Opinion by Gorsuch, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan
Concurring Opinion by Breyer
Dissenting Opinion by Alito, joined by Roberts, Thomas, and Kavanaugh