Skip to content
Name: Southern Union Company v. United States
Case #: Nov-94
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/21/2012
Subsequent History: 132 S.Ct. 2344; 183 L.Ed.2d 318

The rule of Apprendi, with its guarantee of a jury trial for determination of facts that increase punishment, applies to the imposition of a criminal fine. Southern Union was found guilty by jury trial of violation of the Resource and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), for storing mercury at a facility without a permit. The RCRA provides for a $50,000 fine for each day of violation. The court imposed a $6 million fine and a community service obligation of $12 million. Southern Union objected on the grounds that under Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 30 U.S. 466, the maximum sentence a judge may impose is based on the facts reflected by the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant, and here the jury was not asked to determine the precise duration of the offense; at most, the verdict reflected only a single day of violation. The Supreme Court, referencing long-standing tenets of common-law criminal jurisprudence, agreed. Where the fine is substantial and the amount is calculated by reference to particular facts, Apprendi applies so as to guarantee defendant a right to jury trial of the facts. Examples of such facts can be duration of the statutory violation, amount of defendant’s gain or the amount of the victim’s loss.