Sentencing facts are facts used to determine the severity of a convicted defendant's sentence. As Justice Stephen Breyer stated for a majority of 5 Justices (including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito) in Rita v. United States, 127 S. Ct. 2456 (2007):
- The Sixth Amendment decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court do not automatically forbid a sentencing court to take account of factual matters not determined by a jury and to increase the sentence in consequence. Nor do they prohibit the sentencing judge from taking account of the Sentencing Commission's factual findings or recommended sentences. See Cunningham v. California, 549 U.S. , 127 S. Ct. 856, 166 L. Ed. 2d 856 (2007) (slip op., at 8-9), (citing Booker, supra, at 243-244, 125 S. Ct. 738, 160 L. Ed. 2d 621; Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 304-305, 124 S. Ct. 2531, 159 L. Ed. 2d 403 (2004); Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 602, 122 S. Ct. 2428, 153 L. Ed. 2d 556 (2002); and Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 471, 120 S. Ct. 2348, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435 (2000)).
- The Sixth Amendment question, the Court has said, is whether the law forbids a judge to increase a defendant's sentence unless the judge finds facts that the jury did not find (and the offender did not concede). Blakely, supra, at 303-304, 124 S. Ct. 2531, 159 L. Ed. 2d 403 ("When a judge inflicts punishment that the jury's verdict alone does not allow, the jury has not found all the facts which the law makes essential to the punishment and the judge exceeds his proper authority" (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); see Cunningham, supra, at 127 S. Ct. 856, 166 L. Ed. 2d 856 (slip op., 10, 11) (discussing Blakely) ("The judge could not have sentenced Blakely above the standard range without finding the additional fact of deliberate cruelty," "because the judge in Blakely's case could not have imposed a sentence outside the standard range without finding an additional fact, the top of that range . . . was the relevant" maximum sentence for Sixth Amendment purposes); Booker, 543 U.S., at 244, 125 S. Ct. 738, 160 L. Ed. 2d 621 ("Any fact (other than a prior conviction) which is necessary to support a sentence exceeding the maximum authorized by the facts established by a plea of guilty or a jury verdict must be admitted by the defendant or proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt"); id., at 232, 125 S. Ct. 738, 160 L. Ed. 2d 621 (discussing Blakely) ("We rejected the State's argument that the jury verdict was sufficient to authorize a sentence within the general 10-year sentence for class B felonies, noting that under Washington law, the judge was required to find additional facts in order to impose the greater 90-month sentence") (emphasis in original).