MI Court of Appeals clarifies Apprendi’s scope

On November 10, 2009 the US Court of Appeals in the 6th Circuit clarified the scope of the Apprendi and its reach in the MI sentencing guidelines through its recent decision in Chontos v. Berghuis.

The Defendant Chontos was found guilty of several laws, and the most serious offense – CSC 1st – carried a maximum statutory penalty of “imprisonment for life or any term of years.” MCL 750.520b(2)(b). MI Trial court imposed a 40 year maximum sentence and a 225 minimum.  Chontos appealed in state courts to no avail and his primary arguement on habeas was based on the MI trial court violating his 6th AM jury trial right by finding facts at sentencing that raised his minimum sentence.

The Court applied Harris v. United States and found that the Apprendi rule (any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt – 530 US 466, 490 [2000]) does not apply to judicial factfinding that increases the minimum sentence as along as the sentence does not exceed the applicable statutory maximum.  Specifically, the Court quoted that “[f]ocusing on Chonstos’s minimum sentence misses Apprendi’s point.”



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