High Court Suggests Lighter Sentence In Ruling On “Ex Post Facto” Laws


An Illinois businessman convicted of bank fraud won an opportunity to receive a lighter sentence on as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his 70-month prison term violated the Constitution's ban on ex post facto laws, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The court ruled that Marvin Peugh was entitled to be sentenced under a version of the sentencing guidelines in effect at the time he committed his crimes, not the more punitive guidelines later enacted. In a 5-to-4 decision, the court said a federal judge's reliance on the tougher guidelines in fashioning Peugh's sentence violated the concept of “fundamental justice.” The ban on ex post facto laws is designed to promote basic fairness by preventing the government from changing the law midway through a criminal case when the new law will result in more severe punishment. In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said the sentencing guidelines may influence a judge's sentencing decision but that the final sentence is discretionary.

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