America Court System- Sentencing
Instruction Unit 5 IP
APA and 2-3 sources double space
As an investigator with the Federal Public Defender’s Office, you are assisting Assistant Federal Defender Lilly Jones with gathering background information on offender Ben Smith, who pled guilty to distribution of a controlled substance (5 kilograms of cocaine). Mr. Smith is being sentenced next month.
In a 2–3-page paper, provide an overview of the following:
- Why were the federal sentencing guidelines developed, and what is their purpose?
- Who created the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
- What factors will a court take into consideration when sentencing Mr. Smith?
- In your opinion, do the federal sentencing guidelines allow judges enough discretion when imposing a sentence in this type of case?
- Should judges have more or less discretion when it comes to sentencing?
- What are the 3 most important things that Ms. Jones should tell the judge at sentencing about Mr. Smith to aid in sentencing?
Your assignment will be graded in accordance with the following criteria. View the grading rubric.
America Court System- Sentencing
The United States Sentencing Commission developed the federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines are often consulted for the appropriate form and severity for offenders meant to be sentenced for federal crimes. The guidelines are non-binding rules providing a uniform policy for those who are set to be convicted in the United States federal courts. The guidelines are expected to incorporate the purpose of sentencing. For instance, they are meant to state whether the punishment should be rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence, or just punishment (United States Sentencing Commission, 2009). The guidelines also provide the required fairness and certainty in achieving the sentencing purpose and avoiding undue disparities among offenders. Finally, they also serve the purpose of reflecting human advancement in knowledge concerning the social justice process.
The United States Sentencing Commission is charged with establishing the federal sentencing guidelines. The commission is an independent agency under the judiciary branch of the government. The commission also serves in other roles, including establishing policies and practices for sentencing for federal courts. It also advises and assists Congress and the executive branch in developing efficient and effective crime policies. Finally, it researches, analyzes, and distributes information concerning sentencing and federal crime issues. Therefore, it serves as an information resource for the executive, courts, Congress, criminal justice practitioners, public, and academic community.
The first factor that the court will consider when sentencing Mr. Smith is the circumstances and nature of the federal crime and his criminal history. The need to impose the sentence is also considered based on the four purposes of sentencing: retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and deterrence. According to the United States Sentencing Commission (2009), the court must also consider the available types of sentences within the jurisdiction. For instance, a state may prohibit probation, making it unavailable for sentencing. The sentencing range as established by the sentencing guidelines is also considered. Other considerations include providing restitution to offense victims, avoiding unnecessary sentencing disparities, and any other relevant policy statements the commission provides.
The guidelines provide judges enough discretion when sentencing crimes related to the distribution of a controlled substance. For instance, judges will first have to consider the need to impose sentencing based on the severity of the crime. Then, they will consider the available options for sentencing within their respective jurisdictions. After that, they will decide based on all the considerations; as such, the guidelines provide them with all the necessary resources for making a sound decision.
Although judges are known to be at the heart of the sentencing process, their discretion is often limited. Nevertheless, the idea is sound because judges are not democratically elected into the office and thus have to obtain their mandate from other sources. The most important source in most democratic countries is the constitution. Judges are liable for making numerous sentencing errors without being guided by other sources, which will affect the criminal justice system even further.
The first and most important thing that Ms. Jones should tell the court about Mr. Smith to aid in sentencing is that the nature of the crime is enormous and warrants sentencing. In line with this, she should plead with the judges to consider constitutional dispensation when making their judgment. Secondly, she should advise the judges that sentencing is necessary since an offense has been committed. Per the law, no one is supposed to be found possessing illegal substances such as cocaine, which calls for Mr. Smith’s sentencing. Finally, she should tell the judges that they should carefully consider the defendant’s criminal history.
United States Sentencing Commission. (2009). An overview of the United States sentencing commission. Accessed online http://usinfo. state. gov/infousa/government/branches/docs/USSCovervie w. pdf, 12(5), 08.
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