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Name: Washington v. Recuenco
Case #: May-83
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/26/2006
Subsequent History: 126 S.Ct. 2546; 165 L.Ed.2d 466

Sentencing factors must be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, but the failure to do so may be harmless error. Recuenco was convicted of assault in the second degree based on the jury’s finding that he assaulted his wife with a deadly weapon. The trial court applied a 3-year firearm enhancement based on its own factual findings. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Washington vacated the sentence, concluding that Blakely violations can never be harmless. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the conclusion, and reversed. Failure to submit a sentencing factor to the jury is not structural error. The failure to present a sentencing factor to the jury does not necessarily render a criminal trial fundamentally unfair. Errors are subject to the harmless error test. On remand, Recuenco may be able to argue that the error was not harmless in this particular case, but the error alone does not require automatic reversal.