Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Short Summary of the History of Federal Sentencing Laws

Federal sentencing law has experienced many changes during the last quarter century, and an often unsettling evolution during the past decade. This was not always the case. For the better part of the twentieth century, punishment in federal criminal cases was imposed under an indeterminate sentencing scheme. Statutes specified the penalties for crimes, but the sentencing judge had broad discretion to incarcerate a defendant and determine the length of the term of imprisonment, or impose probation or some other form of lesser restraint, and decide whether a fine should be imposed and how much. See, Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 363, 109 S.Ct. 647, 650, 102 L.Ed.2d 714 (1989). Federal sentencing was designed then on the premise that defendants convicted for criminal conduct could be rehabilitated and then returned to society with a minimal risk of recidivism. Id.

Eventually, "[r]ehabilitation as a sound penological theory came to be questioned and, in any event, was regarded by some as an unattainable goal for most cases." Mistretta, 488 U.S. at 365, 109 S.Ct, at 651. See, Senate Report on Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, S.Rep. No. 98-225 (1983), U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 1984 at p. 3182 (Referring to the "outmoded rehabilitation model" for federal criminal sentencing, and recognizing that the efforts of the criminal justice system to achieve rehabilitation of offenders had failed). Also, the broad discretion given sentencing judges under this system led to perceptions that "federal judges mete out an unjustifiably wide range of sentences to offenders with similar histories, convicted of similar crimes, committed under similar circumstances." Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81, 92, 116 S.Ct. 2035, 2043-44, 135 L.Ed.2d 392 (1996).
To be continued

For more information visit H. Manuel Hernandez, P.A.

H. Manuel Hernandez has been practicing criminal law for 32 years, the first 10 years as a federal prosecutor, and the last 22 years as a criminal defense attorney. He is dual Board Certified by the Florida Bar as a Criminal Trial Specialist and a Criminal Appellate Specialist by the Florida Bar. He is also Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Criminal Trial Advocate. Mr. Hernández has been rated "AV" in the distinguished Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating available in this highly respected legal directory relied on by attorneys when looking for other attorneys to refer cases to or to work with in different areas of the law.

For more information please call the office of attorney H. Manuel Hernández, P.A. 407-682-5553   

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