The United States Sentencing Commission (“USSC”) just released a report to Congress studying federal sentencing data nationwide. Congress commissioned the report to see how sentencing has changed since the landmark 2005 Supreme Court case United States v. Booker. In Booker, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are discretionary, not mandatory. The court emphasized the separation of powers between the three branches of government and that it is the duty of the judge to make an individualized sentencing determination based upon the unique circumstances of the case before him.
The USSC report proves with statistics what many of us have long suspected. Judges follow the Sentencing Guidelines anyway. In fact, eighty percent of the time, the sentence imposed falls within the Guidelines range or departs from the Guidelines range only with the agreement of the prosecution.