United States v. Booker,was a United States Supreme Court decision that had to do with criminal sentencing. The court’s decision was that the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial requires that, other than a prior conviction, only facts admitted by a defendant or proved beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury can be used to calculate a sentence, whether the defendant has pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. The maximum sentence a judge may impose is a sentence based upon the facts admitted by the defendant or proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
The provision of the federal sentencing statute that required federal district judges to impose a sentence within the Federal Guidelines range was struck down by the Court in a split-majority ruling. This ruling was a result of a ruling made six months earlier in Blakely v. Washington, in which the Court had imposed the same requirement on a guidelines sentencing scheme that was used in the state of Washington. The Blakely decision came from Apprendi v. New Jersey, where the Court held that, except for prior convictions, any fact that increases the defendant’s punishment above the statutory maximum punishment had to be presented to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
In modern sentencing, the “statutory maximum” is the greatest sentence the judge can impose based solely on the jury’s factfinding. If any facts are presented exposing the defendant to punishment above the guideline range, they must be submitted to a jury and be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.