Justices Invalidate Federal Sentencing Guidelines

2005

In United States v. Booker, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal sentencing guidelines violate the Sixth Amendment. Under the guidelines, judges had the authority to implement factual findings to increase a criminal’s sentence beyond the “prescribed statutory maximum,” regardless of the jury’s findings. The justices find, however, that this system infringes on the defendant’s right to trial by jury. To remedy the problem, the Court says, judges should consider the guidelines advisory, not mandatory, when imposing sentences that will be upheld on appeal as long as they are not “unreasonable.” The Court leaves it to Congress to establish a new system that complies with Sixth Amendment protections.