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August 2009

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Significant Dates and Decisions in the History of the Sentencing Guidelines

1984 Sentencing Reform Act of 1984

Part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, the Sentencing Reform Act is signed into law by President Reagan on October 12, 1984.

1985 The U.S. Sentencing Commission meets for the first time in October 1985.

1987 The sentencing guidelines take effect on November 1, 1987.

1989 Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989)

The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the U.S. Sentencing Commission as an independent agency in the judicial branch.

2000 Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000)

The Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment requires that other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision primarily affects sentences for convictions in drug cases, since the maximum penalties in those cases vary depending on the type and amount of drugs involved.

2002 Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002)

The Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial extends to the determination of any fact, other than a prior conviction, that increases the maximum punishment for first-degree murder from life imprisonment to death.

2004 Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004)

The Supreme Court held that judicial application of an enhanced range under the Washington state guidelines violated the defendants right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment.

2005 U.S. v. Booker and U.S. v. Fanfan, 543 U.S. 220 (2005)

The Supreme Court held in the consolidated cases of U.S. v. Booker and U.S. v. Fanfan that mandatory application of the federal sentencing guidelines violated the defendants right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment. The Court remedied the Sixth Amendment violation by making the guidelines advisory, and instructed the appellate courts to review sentences for reasonableness.

2007 Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338 (2007)

The Supreme Court held that a court of appeals may apply a presumption of reasonableness to a district court sentence within the guidelines.

2007 Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007)

The Supreme Court stated that the district court should begin all sentencing proceedings by correctly calculating the applicable guideline range. Furthermore, the Court held that courts of appeals must review all sentences—whether inside, just outside, or significantly outside the guideline range—under a deferential abuse of discretion standard.

2007 Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85 (2007)

The Supreme Court ruled that a district judge must include the guideline range in the array of factors warranting consideration at sentencing, but the court may consider the disparity between the guidelines treatment of crack and powder offenses in determining the sentence.