January 18, 2005

Supreme Court Strikes Down Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines

Arnold & Porter Advisory

On January 12, 2005, the United States Supreme Court significantly changed the sentencing of federal criminal defendants. In a pair of consolidated cases, United States v. Booker, No. 04-104, and United States v. Fanfan, No. 04-105, the Court held that the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which have governed sentencing in federal courts since 1984, will henceforth be advisory for sentencing judges-not mandatory-in order to comply with the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Although the Court's holding seems to benefit defendants by permitting greater leeway in sentencing, its practical effect in the short term is uncertain. Even so, some in Congress will undoubtedly seek to overturn the decision and institute a harsher and more rigid sentencing regime.


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