Court seems split on mandatory minimum issue

Legal Insight Posted on

The Supreme Court seems split on whether a jury or a judge should have the final say on facts that can trigger mandatory minimum sentences in criminal trials.

The justices heard arguments Monday in Allen Alleyne's case. He was convicted of robbery and firearm possession in Richmond, Va. The jury said Alleyne's accomplice did not brandish a weapon, but the judge said he did, raising Alleyne's minimum sentence from five to seven years on that charge.

Alleyne's lawyers say the brandishing decision should have been the jury's, and it should have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the judge made his determination using a lower standard of proof. The Justice Department argued that the current system has been used successfully for years.

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