April 15, 2005

Federal Sentencing Guideline Reform in H.R. 1528

Arnold & Porter Advisory

As noted in Arnold & Porter LLP's Client Advisory, Supreme Court Strikes Down Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines (Jan. 2005), the United States Supreme Court recently held in United States v. Booker that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines would henceforth be advisory only, and that judges have discretion to impose a sentence below (or above) the Guidelines range if such a sentence would be reasonable and would further the statutory goals of sentencing. Many commentators anticipated a response to the Booker decision from Congress. This week, without fanfare, a House subcommittee approved an otherwise-innocuous drug sentencing bill containing a provision that would essentially transform the Guidelines into a regime of mandatory minimums. Congress has held no hearings about the provision, and it is unclear whether the Department of Justice or the United States Sentencing Commission played any role in its development. Yet the amendment would have radical implications for the sentencing of federal criminal defendants and would certainly result in higher sentences, particularly in white-collar cases.


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