In What Circumstances Can Imprisonment Be Extended Under Hate Crime Statute ?
In Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466 120 S. Ct. 2348, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, the United States Supreme Court specifically distinguished the situation where a sentencing determination hinges on a factual finding arising from the commission of the charged crime and one involving a prior conviction.
At issue was a New Jersey hate crime statute which provided for an " 'extended term' of imprisonment if the trial judge finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that 'the 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. 1999-2000).
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)." ( Apprendi v. New Jersey, supra, at pp. 468-469 120 S. Ct. at p. 2351.)
Apprendi noted that "by its very terms, this statute mandates an examination of the defendant's state of mind--a concept known well to the criminal law as the defendant's mens rea." ( Apprendi v. New Jersey, supra, 530 U.S. at p. 492 120 S. Ct. at p. 2364.)
In other words, the pivotal issue required "the factfinder to determine whether the defendant possessed, at the time he committed the subject act, a 'purpose to intimidate' on account of, inter alia, race." (Ibid.)
It further noted that "the effect of New Jersey's sentencing 'enhancement' here is unquestionably to turn a second-degree offense into a first degree offense, under the State's own criminal code." ( Id. at p. 494 120 S. Ct. at p. 2365.)
It was in this context that Apprendi stated:
"Other than the fact of a prior conviction, 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.
With that exception, we endorse the statement of the following rule:
'It is unconstitutional for a legislature to remove from the jury the assessment of facts that increase the prescribed range of penalties to which a criminal defendant is exposed. It is equally clear that such facts must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.' " (Apprendi v. New Jersey, supra, 530 U.S. at p. 490 120 S. Ct. at pp. 2362-2363. )