“These mandatory minimum sentences are perhaps a good example of the law of unintended consequences . . . “ – U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist The Objective of Mandatory Minimums – A Double-Edged Sword While it is unclear whether former Chief Justice Rehnquist was referring to all mandatory minimum sentences as a policy…Continue Reading Pennsylvania’s Sentencing Guidelines: A Review and History
On December 13, 2018, the United States Sentencing Commission published a “reader friendly” version of the proposed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines. The public comment period for the proposed amendments will run through February 19, 2019. The reply period will officially close on March 15, 2019. The proposed amendments include the following major categories…Continue Reading Proposed Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines Published
It stands to reason that if a defendant facing criminal charges cooperates with the government, then the government will recommend a reduced sentence. In the case of United States v. Mathes, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certainly thought so and ordered that a defendant who exhibited “extraordinary cooperation” in the government’s drug trafficking investigation be…Continue Reading Defendant's Pre-Trial Cooperation Nets Resentencing
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently tackled a complicated issue involving the application of New York state drug laws to the federal sentencing guidelines for a defendant convicted of possessing Xanax with the intent to distribute and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. In United States v. Townsend, the Second Circuit took a critical…Continue Reading Impact of Prior State Drug Convictions on Federal Sentences
Voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, and challenges to the Voting Rights Act are all attacks on citizens’ right to vote, and on their vote being counted. Another voter suppression tactic – one that has been around for centuries – is the use of “felony disenfranchisement” laws in the United States, i.e., laws that restrict the right…Continue Reading Should a Conviction Mean That You Can't Vote?
Judges who hand down criminal sentences every day in our federal and state courts engage in sentencing discrimination without even really understanding or being aware of it. How do we know that is true, and what can we do about it? Strangely enough, part of the answer can begin on Broadway. “What do Broadway musicals…Continue Reading Sentencing Discrimination: The Hidden Role of Implicit Racial Bias
The best way to present a cogent, organized, and persuasive sentencing argument is through a Sentencing Memorandum. As you may know, in either state or federal criminal court, the next stage following any criminal conviction is the sentencing stage. During this phase of the criminal process arguments from both sides are made to the judge,…Continue Reading 5 Essential Aspects of a Sentencing Memorandum
Normally, if a trial court made an obvious mistake in calculating a person’s sentence the mistake should be corrected, right? Well, if the Fifth Circuit had its way, the answer would be “no.” Luckily, the U.S. Supreme Court in a June 2018 decision set the record straight on the proper application of the plain error…Continue Reading Plain Error Rule: U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Fifth Circuit
Just like the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, many states have their own version of sentencing guidelines, and sentencing charts. The State of New York is no exception. The Sentence Chart in New York for state crimes is particularly complicated. In fact, there is not just one sentencing chart in New York, but four. Moreover, those four…Continue Reading Sentencing Chart in New York: A Closer Look
The old adage “crime doesn’t pay” may be true as an overall principle; yet, as a practical matter, crime often does pay – sometimes it pays quite a lot. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has reported that crimes involving money represent the majority of criminal activity in the United States. Because money laundering…Continue Reading Sentencing For Money Laundering. Does Crime Pay?
The House of Representatives recently passed the so-called “First Step Act,” which is very different from the “Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act” that is still bouncing around the Senate. I discussed in a previous article, the many details of the House’s “First Step Act” (First Step). Let’s take a closer look at the debate. Some…Continue Reading Sentencing Reform And Corrections Act vs. First Step Act
We all have watched courtroom dramas on TV, in the movies, and even on stage. Invariably, the crucial moment we all wait for is when the jury foreperson gives the verdict. Indeed, the story usually concludes at that point. In reality, however, there is another whole proceeding that follows a jury verdict of “guilty.” That…Continue Reading What Can You Expect At A Sentencing Hearing?
In a remarkable new report just released from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, we now have more evidence showing that recidivism rates do not increase for those who receive lighter drug sentences. After decades of an experiment in mass incarceration for drug offenses in the United States, this report provides further support for the notion that…Continue Reading U.S. Sentencing Commission’s March 2018 Report: Early Release of Drug Offenders Has No Impact On Recidivism Rates
There is a bipartisan effort to get sensible about sentencing guidelines for drugs in Congress. The incredibly punitive mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines for drugs currently in place have led to a major mass incarceration problem. It is a problem that does nothing but cost taxpayers far too much to jail so many citizens, and cost many…Continue Reading Sentencing Guidelines for Drugs: New Bill on Fentanyl, and the Fallacy of the “Tough-On-Crime” Approach
Why do we sentence people? Depending on who you ask, you may get vastly different answers. And those answers depend upon our society’s sentencing philosophies. The Five Sentencing Philosophies There are five basic sentencing philosophies that justify why we punish those who break our criminal laws: retribution, incapacitation, rehabilitation, deterrence, and restoration. These philosophies arenot…Continue Reading Sentencing Philosophies – Can We Build The Perfect Prison?