Published on: Thursday, June 27, 2019

In the 5 to 4 ruling in United States v. Haymond, No. 17-1672 (June 27, 2019), the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a federal criminal defendant’s claim that the procedures used to revoke his federal supervised release term and send him back to prison for a mandatory minimum of five years were unconstitutional. 

Petitioner Andre Haymond had been convicted of possessing child pornography, an offense punishable by zero to 10 years in prison.  After serving a prison sentence of 38 months, the government sought to revoke Haymond’s supervised release after finding child pornography on his cell phone.  During a supervised release hearing, the district court, without a jury, found by a preponderance of the evidence that Haymond possessed child pornography.  Normally, the judge could have sentenced Haymond to prison for between zero and two additional years.  But 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k), the judge was required to sentence Haymond to prison for between five years and life.  The judge imposed the mandatory minimum five year sentence. 

Relying on the Fifth and Sixth Amendment, and its precedents in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), and Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013) (plurality opinion), the Supreme Court found that Haymond faced a lawful term of imprisonment of zero to 10 years in prison based solely on the facts reflected in the jury’s verdict.  The Court held that the facts found by the district judge here, like the facts found by the district judge in Alleyne, increased the “legally prescribed range of allowable sentences” in violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. 

The lower court opinion of the Tenth Circuit is available here.  Merits briefing is available at the Supreme Court’s website, here

The Training Division provides sentencing resources to help you understand the current state of federal sentencing law, and argue for the best possible result for your clients.  The TD also provides resources on defending child pornography and other sex offenses