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September 22, 2008

Evidence that judges will follow sensible sentencing guidelines

Though I do not know all the particulars of the state sentencing guidelines in Pennsylvania, I do know that this local story highlights that sentencing judges will generally follow sentencing guidelines that provide sensible sentencing advice.  The story is headlined "Study: Judges usually comply," and here are excerpts:

Judges in Montgomery County appear to be conforming to state sentencing guidelines and rarely sentence convicted criminals above or below those guidelines, according to a recent study.

Of the 5,537 county sentences reviewed by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing in 2007, 95 percent were within the guidelines recommended by state legislators.  Only 5 percent of the sentences doled out to criminals by county judges in 2007 were outside the guidelines, either above or below state recommendations.

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman believes the statistics reflect that the guidelines are accomplishing their purpose in the county. "It shows that our judges take sentencing very seriously and they scrupulously follow the law," Ferman said. "The lion's share of the cases fall into the standard range of the sentencing guidelines because that's where they belong."...

Statewide, overall conformity to the guidelines was high during 2007.  About 91 percent of the 97,360 sentences imposed by judges in all 67 counties during 2007 were within the recommended guidelines.

September 22, 2008 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

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Comments

What evidence do we have that these guidelines are sensible? I am sure that when the USSG came out, a similar % of Judges went along with the guidelines. At least this is the what came to happen over the years. The guidelines became the norm, and replaced individual discretion and thought. I don't see anything in this article from the defense bar to suggest they agree the guidelines are at all sensible.

Posted by: Peter Carter | Sep 22, 2008 3:24:47 PM

The statistics seem to indicate that judges are using the Guidelines more as mandatory than as advisory. As advisory, the top of the Guidelines is no longer the statutory maximum but has been replaced by the significantly longer code maximum, while most sentences fall at the low end of the guidelines. Further, judges can still violate Apprendi and increase sentences on a preponderance of the evidence, leaving sentencing based on the charging by the prosecutors. If the prosecutors succeed in finding a defendant guilty on any one count, the judge, prodded by the prosecutors, can increase the sentence significantly, based on the over-charging of the prosecutors. This will still be within the statistical portion of within the Guideline range.

Posted by: layperson | Sep 22, 2008 6:15:38 PM

Read the entry on RSS then clicked through and I see that Peter beat me to my comment.

The 95% statistic shows that 95% of the time the guidelines are followed but we have no idea what percentage of the time the sentences are reasonable...

Posted by: Jamie | Sep 23, 2008 9:55:48 AM

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