Federal judges are more likely these days to impose sentences below those recommended in advisory guidelines, says the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The rate of penalties within the guideline range has dropped from 70.1 percent in 1995 to 53.9 percent in 2011. Sentences for fraud and child pornography have increasingly diverged from the guidelines, the panel says in a report posted on the Sentencing Law and Policy blog because the commission’s own website was taken down last weekend by hackers.
The commission found increased differences in rates of sentences across the U.S. below the guideline range, from under ten percent in some judicial districts to more than 40 percent in others during the most recent time period studied. Judges within the same district increasingly vary from the guidelines at different rates. Prosecutors in more areas are seeking below-range variances from the guidelines.