Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Civil, Criminal, or Mary Jane: Stigma, Legislative Labels, and the Civil Case at the Heart of Criminal Procedure
ExpressO (2010)
  • W. David Ball, Santa Clara University

In criminal cases, any fact which increases the maximum punishment must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. This rule, which comes from Apprendi v. New Jersey, looks to what facts do, not what they are called; in Justice Scalia’s memorable turn of phrase, it applies whether the legislature has labeled operant facts “elements, enhancements, or Mary Jane.” Civil statutes, however, can deprive an individual of her liberty on identical facts without needing to meet the beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof. If Apprendi is, indeed, functional, why is it limited to formally criminal cases? Why does it not apply to all punishments, no matter whether they are called civil, criminal, or Mary Jane?

One often-proposed answer is that Apprendi derives its holding exclusively from the Sixth Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment applies only to “criminal prosecutions.” Apprendi is not, however, just a Sixth Amendment case. Its “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement comes from due process—specifically, from a formally civil case, In re Winship, which explicitly rejects the idea that civil labels can insulate a state from heightened procedural obligations. Apprendi’s application cannot, therefore, be limited on formal grounds to criminal cases. To determine the limits of its application, one must instead return to the interests that both Winship and Apprendi identify as worthy of protection: the imposition of stigma and the deprivation of liberty.

This Article examines the due process roots of the Apprendi line and proposes that stigma is the substantive concern that separates retribution from regulation, punishment from public safety. Using sociology’s modified labeling theory, I provide a substantive definition of stigma and explore how a unified due process approach, with stigma at its heart, might provide a more meaningful way to separate punishment from risk management. This approach would move judicial discourse away from empty, taxonomic arguments about legislative labels towards an examination of the effects laws have on the lives of those subjected to them, a conversation which would more accurately and comprehensively address the values and interests at the heart of the justice system.

  • apprendi,
  • winship,
  • civil/criminal,
  • svp,
  • sex offender,
  • sentencing,
  • due process,
  • 6th amendment
Publication Date
August 7, 2010
Citation Information
W. David Ball. "Civil, Criminal, or Mary Jane: Stigma, Legislative Labels, and the Civil Case at the Heart of Criminal Procedure" ExpressO (2010)
Available at: