Calif. Sentencing Guidelines Held Unconstitutional

2007

In California v. Cunningham, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down California’s sentencing law because it gives judges too much power to increase sentences based on facts not found beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury. The defendant had been convicted in 2003 of sexually abusing his son. Under the California guidelines, the judge could pick between sentences of six, 12 or 16 years, but was obligated to pick the middle term unless he could find aggravating circumstances to justify the higher sentence. The Court rules that these factual findings must be left to a jury, but leaves it to the California Legislature to rewrite the law to meet constitutional standards.