SW Legal studies in Business

Sentencing Guidelines Are Guidelines, Not Statutory Requirements
Description

Appeals court held that the Sentencing Guidelines are to give guidance to judges in sentencing, but, unless a statute requires a specific sentence be imposed, judges are not required to follow the sentences recommended by the Guidelines.

Topic Criminal Law
Key Words

Sentencing Guidelines; Advisory Status

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Corner pleaded guilty to possession of more than five grams of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to 188 months' imprisonment as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines. Corner appealed, raising the question of whether a district judge is entitled to disagree with the career-offending Guideline from the Sentencing Commission.

Decision

Vacated and remanded. The Supreme Court, in the 2005 Booker decision, held that the Sentencing Guidelines are advisory and that judges may vary from Guideline recommendations as long as they respect all statutory requirements. The Guidelines impose much longer sentences for possession of crack cocaine compared to equal quantities of powder cocaine. Since the difference in sentences is based on a Guideline from the Commission, not a statute passed by Congress, judges are at liberty to reject the Guideline, although they must act reasonably when using that power. Sentencing judges must implement statutes, whether or not the judges agree with them or not, but Sentencing Commission Guidelines are only a benchmark that judges may use for guidance. Corner will be resentenced.

Citation

U.S. v. Corner, ---F.3d--- (2010 WL 935754, 7th Cir., 2010)

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