Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A (significant?) 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:

Second 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 second quarter of fiscal year 2009 [which runs through March 31, 2009].  The report also provides an analysis of sentencing trends over five years for several key sentencing practices. (Published June 1, 2009)

The new data perhaps suggest a trend that I tentatively predicted in this post right after President Obama's election in which I suggested that the incoming administration might impact federal sentencing practice before we see any formal changes in policy.  Notably, though the new data run pre-dates the Obama Administration's announcement of a new attitude about crack sentencing policy and any other formal discussion of policy changes, this data run shows a (small but seemingly significant) uptick in below-guideline sentences imposed by judges.  Specifically, in the two 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 two quarters since then, judges decided on their own to impose a below-guideline sentence in roughly 15.3% 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 roughly 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.

June 2, 2009 in Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The latest, greatest federal sentencing data from the USSC

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

First 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 during the first quarter of fiscal year 2009.  The report also provides an analysis of sentencing trends over five years for several key sentencing practices. (Published April 15, 2009)

The new data continue to show remarkable stability in the operation and application of the advisory federal guideline sentencing system: these data show, yet again, that just under 60% of all federal sentences are within the calculated guidelines range, with prosecutors requesting a below-range sentence in nearly 25% of all cases.  

Not long after the election, I speculated here that ground-level sentencing trends might show the imprint of a new administration before there were any formal legal and policy developments.  Interestingly, these latest numbers reveal a slight uptick in the number of judge-initiated departures and a slight down-tick in the number of prosecutor-initiated departures.  But these changes seem to be too slight at this early stage to assert that the federal sentencing times are a-changing.

April 16, 2009 in Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Final FY2008 quarterly sentencing data from US Sentencing Commission

Just posted on the US Sentencing Commission's website is a finalized set of federal sentencing data for fiscal year 2008.  Here is how the USSC describes this latest data doc:

Final FY08 Quarterly Sentencing Update (Published March 24, 2009): An extensive set of tables and charts presenting the final cumulative fiscal year quarterly data on cases sentenced in fiscal year 2008. The report also provides an analysis of sentencing trends over five years for several key sentencing practices.

March 25, 2009 in Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, December 15, 2008

Early federal sentencing data presents from the US Sentencing Commission

Data junkies, rejoice!  The number-crunching elves working inside the US Sentencing Commission (which is inside the Beltway just south of the North Pole) have finished making the present that every federal sentencing nerd like me wants for the holidays: new batches of federal sentencing data.  Specifically, now to be found on the USSC's main webpage are these data-licious announcements:

December 2008 Preliminary Post-Kimbrough/Gall Data Report:  An updated set of tables presenting preliminary data on fiscal year 2008 cases sentenced on or after December 10, 2007 through September 30, 2008. This report was prepared using data received, coded, and edited by the Commission by November 3, 2008.

FY2008 4th Quarterly Sentencing Update:  An extensive set of tables and charts presenting cumulative quarterly data on cases sentenced in fiscal year 2008. The numbers are prepared using data from cases in which the defendant was sentenced by the close-of-business on September 30, 2008 and which were received, coded, and edited by the Commission by November 3, 2008.

Data on Retroactive Application of the Crack Cocaine Amendment: A set of tables presenting preliminary data on cases in which a motion for a reduced sentence was considered under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). These cases involve retroactive application of the crack cocaine amendment to the sentencing guidelines (Amendment 706, as amended by Amendment 711) which became effective on November 1, 2007 and which was made retroactive effective March 3, 2008. The report represents those cases considered by the courts through September 30, 2008 and for which data was received, coded, and edited by the Commission as of December 8, 2008.

I hope to get a chance to consume and crunch all this new data soon, but in the meantime perhaps readers can identify any particular sentencing statistics that jump out from all this new federal data.

December 15, 2008 in Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Federal sentencing through history: "Theives Treated Tenderly."

An insightful reader sent me this link to a fascinating little New York Times story published in December 1886.  The quote above is the headline from this story published 122 years ago; here is the first sentence and some later snippets from this reporting of 19th-century federal sentencing news that was fit to print:

The unusual leniency with which the case of H. Robertson Jr. was handled by Judge Benedlot in the United States Circuit Court a few days ago has brought to the attention of lawyers and others who have business with the Federal authorities the extremely light sentences imposed upon persons convicted of violating the postal laws....

It will be seen that in no case has the sentence been for a longer term than one year.  In speaking of the tenderness with which Post Office cases were handled, Gen. Foster, the Assistant United States DistrictAttorney, said that he could not consider himself to blame as he had in nearly all the cases secured convictions.  He could not regulate the sentences because that rested entirely with the Judges.

November 12, 2008 in Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lots of new federal sentencing data from the USSC

I am so very pleased to discover that the US Sentencing Commission has a lot of new data on its website this morning.  Here is what's there as described by the USSC (with links):

After I get a chance to chew on all these data, I will comment in a separate post concerning anything that seems especially notable in the numbers.

September 17, 2008 in Detailed sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack