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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Report on the Impact of United States v. Booker on Federal Sentencing

  • Organization: United States Sentencing Commission
  • Document Type: Report
  • Date Created: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
  • Submitted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
  • Attachment(s): PDF

In 1984, Congress enacted the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (the "SRA") in response to widespread sentencing disparity that existed in the federal sentencing system.Promulgation of the SRA ushered in a new era of sentencing in federal courts through the creation of the United States Sentencing Commission (the "Commission") and the promulgation of mandatory sentencing guidelines. For nearly twenty years, the mandatory sentencing guideline system required federal judges to impose sentences within the applicable guideline range, unless the court found the existence of an aggravating or mitigating circumstance not adequately taken into consideration by the Commission in formulating the sentencing guidelines.This system changed on January 12, 2005, when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in United States v. Booker.14 The Booker Court determined that mandatory application of the sentencing guidelines violated the right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court remedied the Sixth Amendment violation by excising the provisions in the SRA that made the sentencing guidelines mandatory, thereby turning the mandatory sentencing guideline system into an advisory guideline system.

This report assesses the impact of Booker on federal sentencing. It does so by discussing developing appellate court jurisprudence interpreting Booker and the resulting advisory guideline system and by reporting and analyzing data reflecting the sentences imposed subsequent to the Booker decision. This report is prepared pursuant to the Commission's general statutory authority under 28 U.S.C. §§ 994-995 and the specific responsibilities enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 995(a)(14) and (15), which require the Commission to publish data concerning the sentencing process, and to collect and systematically disseminate information concerning the actual sentences imposed and the relationship of such sentences to the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

This chapter briefly summarizes the history of the promulgation of the sentencing guidelines and relevant Supreme Court precedent deciding challenges to their operation. The chapter then examines the Sixth Amendment line of Supreme Court decisions starting with Apprendi v. New Jersey,and culminating with Booker. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the circuit court decisions interpreting and applying Booker, highlighting select decisions of import to the consideration of Booker's overall impact on federal sentencing. Chapter 3 describes the Commission response to the advisory guidelines system created by Booker. Chapters 4 through 6 analyze Commission data to provide a comparative overview of sentencing practices before and after Booker. Chapter 6 also addresses Booker's effect on specific guideline issues and offender groups.

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