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OfflineSeussA
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Supreme Court: Sentencing Rules Not Mandatory
    #3617420 - 01/12/05 12:36 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that federal judges no longer have to abide by the controversial 18-year-old sentencing guidelines.

The 5-4 ruling was a blow for the U.S. Justice Department, which had defended the constitutionality of the federal sentencing guidelines that now apply to tens of thousands of criminal defendants each year. Thousands of cases nationwide have been on hold pending Wednesday's ruling.

The high court ruled that its decision in June, which struck down a similar sentencing system used in Washington state for violating a defendant's constitutional rights, also applied to the federal guidelines.

Justice Stephen Breyer said in the court's opinion that the ruling meant the guidelines are no longer mandatory, making them only advisory for the sentencing judge.

Breyer said federal judges are not bound to apply the guidelines, only take them into account when sentencing a defendant.

In both cases before the Supreme Court a judge imposed greater sentences under the guidelines, based on the judge's determination of a fact that was not found by the jury or admitted by the defendant.

The guidelines, long criticized by criminal justice reform advocates for imposing overly harsh sentences on a mandatory basis, set rules for federal judges in calculating what punishment to give a defendant and attempt to reduce wide disparities in sentences for the same crime. They tell judges which factors can lead to a lighter sentence and which ones can result in a longer sentence.

Breyer said the U.S. Congress could act next.

"Ours, of course, is not the last word: The ball now lies in Congress' court. The national legislature is equipped to devise and install, long-term, the sentencing system compatible with the Constitution that Congress judges best for the federal system of justice," he wrote.

The ruling was a defeat for the U.S. Justice Department. It had appealed to the Supreme Court and defended the federal guidelines, arguing the federal system had been thrown into disarray by the ruling in June


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InvisibleDNKYD
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Re: Supreme Court: Sentencing Rules Not Mandatory [Re: Seuss]
    #3620537 - 01/12/05 10:26 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

This isn't abolishing mandatory minimums, is it?


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OfflineSeussA
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Re: Supreme Court: Sentencing Rules Not Mandatory [Re: DNKYD]
    #3622609 - 01/13/05 10:25 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

If I read it correctly, it is.


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OfflineMikeOLogical
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Re: Supreme Court: Sentencing Rules Not Mandatory [Re: Seuss]
    #3622685 - 01/13/05 11:04 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

i wonder if they're going to revisit old cases... i remember more than one instance of a judge publicly declaring that a defendant got too harsh a sentence but that the judge's hands were tied due to mandatory minimums...


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Offlinelonestar2004
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Re: Supreme Court: Sentencing Rules Not Mandatory [Re: Seuss]
    #3625020 - 01/13/05 09:18 PM (12 years, 3 months ago)

"suggested themselves should be treated as ADVISORY, not Mandatory."

Meaning lawyers could petition for lower sentences.


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InvisibleLanaV
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Re: Supreme Court: Sentencing Rules Not Mandatory [Re: Seuss]
    #3627559 - 01/14/05 09:13 AM (12 years, 3 months ago)

http://www.famm.org/index2.htm

"The court fixed the problem by removing the part of the law that tells judges they must use the guidelines to impose sentences.
The courts must now consider, but are not bound to impose, a sentence according to the guidelines. The sentencing guidelines are now advisory ? but mandatory minimum sentences are NOT affected by this ruling."

This is a good link too - http://www.csdp.org/news/news/mandmins.htm

Lana


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