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Spin on Apprendi and Blakely!

The defendant in State v. Recuenco was found guilty by a jury of second degree assault followed by a special verdict that he was armed with a deadly weapon. The assault involved the defendant assaulting his wife with a gun. The trial court imposed a sentence enhancement based on the defendant being armed with a firearm. The enhancement for a firearm is significantly greater than that for a deadly weapon.

The Supreme Court reversed referencing Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S. Ct. 2348, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435 (2000), which held that 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 proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The court also recognized Blakely v. Washington, U.S. 124 S. Ct. 2531, 159 L. Ed. 2d 403 (2004), as the authority for defining the statutory maximum sentence referenced in Apprendi as the maximum sentence a judge may impose solely on the basis of the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant.

The holding by our Supreme Court was that the imposition of the firearms enhancement violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, requiring a remand for resentencing based on the one-year deadly weapon enhancement supported by the jury’s special verdict.

The court also reaffirmed as in State v. Hughes, No. 74147-6 (Wash. April 14, 2005), that Blakely violations may never be deemed harmless.

This is a good thing and long live those that fulfilled their oath to uphold the Constitution.

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  • Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • American Association for Justice
  • Washington State Bar Association
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