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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Facts of the Case 

Nathaniel Jones was indicted on federal offenses for using a gun during and in relation to a crime of violence and carjacking. Federal law prescribed varying prison terms based on the extent of the carjacking crime. Specifically, it imposed a maximum of 25 years for crimes resulting in serious bodily injury, but not-more-than-fifteen-years and life sentence clauses were included in the law. The Magistrate Judge explained to Jones that he faced a maximum of fifteen years on the carjacking charge. Based on the Magistrate's judgment, the District Court's instructions to the jury rested on the fact that the government only had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a carjacking had occurred to convict Jones for up to fifteen years. Subsequently, the jury found Jones guilty. However, a later report showed one of the carjacking victims had sustained a serious injury to the head as a result of the carjacking. Thus, the District Court imposed a twenty-five year sentence on Jones. The court rejected Jones' arguments that a serious bodily injury had neither been pleaded in the indictment nor proved before the jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. It held that a serious bodily injury was a sentencing factor, not an element of an offense.


Does the federal carjacking law define a single crime with three penalty options dependent on sentencing factors?

Decision: 5 votes for Jones, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 2119

No. In a 5-4 decision, authored by Justice David H. Souter, the Court ruled that the federal carjacking law established three separate offenses by the specification of elements, each of which must be charged by indictment, proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and submitted to a jury for its verdict.

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JONES v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
JONES v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"JONES v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,