Our criminal justice system rests on the Fifth and Sixth Amendment guarantees of due process and the right to a jury trial for the criminally accused. These principles require the government to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. Under the Constitution, defendants may be convicted only for conduct proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, at sentencing, courts may enhance sentences if they find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a defendant committed other crimes. The difference in those standards of proof means that a sentencing court can effectively nullify a jury’s verdict by considering acquitted conduct....
The Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act would end this practice by:
- Amending 18 U.S.C. § 3661 to preclude a court of the United States from considering, except for purposes of mitigating a sentence, acquitted conduct at sentencing, and
- Defining “acquitted conduct” to include acts for which a person was criminally charged and adjudicated not guilty after trial in a Federal, State, Tribal, or Juvenile court, or acts underlying a criminal charge or juvenile information dismissed upon a motion for acquittal.
Along with Durbin and Grassley, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
The Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act is endorsed by the following organizations: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Due Process Institute, ALEC Action, American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Black Public Defenders Association, Digital Liberty, Dream Corps JUSTICE, Drug Policy Alliance, Fair Trials, Faith and Freedom Coalition, FAMM, Federal Public and Community Defenders, FreedomWorks, The Innocence Project, Justice Action Network, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Legal Aid & Defender Association, Prison Fellowship, R Street Institute, Right on Crime, The Sentencing Project, Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Tzedek Association.
As the senators say, it's un-American.
Let's hope the bill passes.