Federal Courts Still Issuing Differing Drug Sentences

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Sentencing outcomes in federal courts continue to depend partly on the district in which the defendant is sentenced, the U.S. Sentencing Commission says in a new report. The panel said that variations in sentencing practices across federal courts have increased since the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in United States v. Booker that made sentencing decisions by federal judges advisory rather than mandatory.

This happened in each of four crime types analyzed, fraud, drug trafficking, firearms, and illegal reentry, the commission said. It said that amendments to the sentencing  guidelines that were intended to address concerns among some judges about the severity of some sentences have had an “an inconsistent impact” on the disparity of sentences among courts. The report said that despite many amendments to the guidelines in drug trafficking cases, federal judges in different districts have “increasingly diverged in their sentencing practices of drug trafficking offenders.” The commission said that judges in “certain districts have consistently sentenced more—or less—severely than other districts.”

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