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September 8, 2009

Another notable uptick in below-guideline sentences in latest data run from USSC

The US Sentencing Commission has some notable new sentencing data now up on its website. The USSC's latest data report, which can be accessed here, is described this way:

Third Quarter FY09 Quarterly Sentencing Update: An extensive set of tables and charts presenting fiscal year quarterly data on cases in which the offender was sentenced through the third quarter of fiscal year 2009.  The report also provides an analysis of sentencing trends over five years for several key sentencing practices. (Published September 8, 2009)

The new data shows the continuation of a trend of an increase in below-guideline sentence (which I first noted in this post and which I tentatively predicted in this post right after President Obama's election).  This data run shows another (still small but seemingly significant) uptick in below-guideline sentences imposed by judges.  Specifically, in the three quarters just before President Obama's election, judges decided on their own to impose a below-guideline sentence in roughly 13.8% of all cases.  In the three quarters since then, judges decided on their own to impose a below-guideline sentence in roughly 15.8% of all cases. 

Of course, it remains the case that most below-guideline sentences still result from prosecutors requesting a below-range sentence (this happens in more than 25% of all cases).  And, as has always been the reality in the federal sentencing system both before and since Booker, one can identify a number of large inter-circuit and inter-district variations in how many sentences fall within or outside calculated guideline ranges.

The latest data might be spun in lots of different ways, and it will be especially interesting to see how the on-going internal study group inside the Justice Department characterizes and responds to these trends.

September 8, 2009 at 10:02 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The change is not meaningful at the gut level.

What is going unmeasured is the deterrence of the prosecutors. They may be making better plea deals for less time, returning busy predators to their criminal lifestyle communities. As you might seek a house or condo in golf community, they gravitate to crime lifestyle communities.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 9, 2009 1:25:27 AM

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