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Name: Erlinger v. United States
Case #: 23-370
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/21/2024

The Sixth Amendment requires jury determination by proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a sentencing allegation that a defendant’s prior offenses were “committed on separate occasions.” In so holding, the Supreme Court emphasizes the narrowness of the “fact of a prior conviction” exception to the basic Sixth Amendment/Apprendi right to jury determination of sentencing enhancements. That exception was recognized in Almendarez-Torres v. United States (1998) 523 U.S. 224. However, the Erlinger majority characterizes Almendarez-Torres as an “outlier” and strictly limits its “narrow exception” to “the fact of a prior conviction and the then-existing elements of that offense.” Because the “committed on separate occasions” inquiry required additional determinations concerning the conduct underlying the prior convictions, it fell outside Almendarez-Torres’s “narrow exception” to the Sixth Amendment jury trial right. [Editor’s Note: Erlinger v. United States may have major implications for unresolved issues surrounding determination of aggravating factors related to a defendant’s criminal history under California’s Determinate Sentencing Law, such as unsatisfactory performance on probation or parole or convictions of “increasing seriousness.” Those issues are currently pending before the California Supreme Court in People v. Wiley, S283326.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: