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United States v. Fanfan

United States Supreme Court
542 U.S. 956 (2004)


The United States (plaintiff) charged Fanfan (defendant) with conspiracy to distribute drugs and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs. A jury found Fanfan guilty of the charges. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines allowed a maximum sentence of 78 months in prison based on the jury’s findings. In a posttrial sentencing hearing, the judge found by a preponderance of the evidence additional facts that would have authorized the imposition of an enhanced sentence of 188 to 235 months. The judge declined to impose the enhanced sentence because the facts supporting it had not been found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the judge sentenced Fanfan based only on the jury verdict. The United States filed a motion to correct the sentence, which the trial court denied. The United States then filed both a notice of appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and a petition in the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. Citing the importance of the questions presented, the United States Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari to consider whether the trial court should have imposed the enhanced sentence under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and to consider whether the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are mandatory.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, Breyer, J.J.)

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