Justia Summary

Haymond was convicted of possessing child pornography, which carries a prison term of zero to 10 years. After serving 38 months, while on supervised release, Haymond was found with what appeared to be child pornography. The government sought to revoke his supervised release and secure an additional prison sentence. A district judge, acting without a jury, found by a preponderance of the evidence that Haymond knowingly downloaded and possessed child pornography. Under 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(3), the judge could have sentenced him to a prison term of zero to two additional years. Because possession of child pornography is a section 3583(k) enumerated offense, the judge instead imposed that provision’s five-year mandatory minimum. The Tenth Circuit vacated, finding section 3583(k) unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court vacated. A plurality concluded that the application of section 3583(k) in this case violated Haymond’s right to trial by jury. A judge’s sentencing authority is limited by the jury’s factual findings of criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. Based on the facts reflected in the jury’s verdict, Haymond faced a zero-10 year prison term, while the facts the judge found increased the legally prescribed range of allowable sentences. Rejecting an argument that Haymond’s sentence for violating his supervised release terms was authorized by the jury’s verdict because his supervised release was always subject to the possibility of judicial revocation and 3583(k)’s mandatory prison sentence, the justices stated the mandatory minimum five-year sentence becomes possible only as a result of additional judicial factual findings by a preponderance of the evidence. Unlike traditional parole or probation, section 3583(k) exposes a defendant to an additional prison term beyond that authorized by the jury’s verdict. The justices stated that the Tenth Circuit may address, on remand, whether declaring the last two sentences of section 3583(k) “unconstitutional and unenforceable” sweeps too broadly.