State v. GhostbearAnnotate this Case
After a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict finding Defendant guilty of the sexual assault of the seven-year-old daughter of Defendant’s girlfriend. Defendant subsequently moved the district court to sentence him to the misdemeanor penalty for a first conviction of sexual assault under Mont. Code Ann. 45-5-502(2)(a), arguing that the felony penalty in section 45-5-502(3) did not apply because the jury did not make a finding that the victim was younger than sixteen and a finding that Defendant was more than three years older. The district court concluded that Defendant could not be sentenced to the enhanced penalty for felony sexual assault because the jury had not made a factual finding as to the ages of the victim and Defendant as required by Apprendi v. New Jersey. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the requirements of Apprendi were met in this case because, by following the instructions and by returning a guilty verdict, the jury necessarily found as facts the respective ages of Defendant and the victim.