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On Writ Of Certiorari To The Supreme Court Of New Jersey

A New Jersey statute classifies the possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose as a “second-degree” offense. N. J. Stat. Ann. �2C:39-4(a) (West 1995). Such an offense is punishable by imprisonment for “between five years and 10 years.” �2C:43-6(a)(2). A separate statute, described by that State’s Supreme Court as a “hate crime” law, provides for an “extended term” of imprisonment if the trial judge finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that “[t]he defendant in committing the crime acted with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, gender, handicap, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.” N. J. Stat. Ann. �2C:44-3(e) (West Supp. 2000). The extended term authorized by the hate crime law for second-degree offenses is imprisonment for “between 10 and 20 years.” �2C:43-7(a)(3).

The question presented is whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that a factual determination authorizing an increase in the maximum prison sentence for an offense from 10 to 20 years be made by a jury on the basis of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

 
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