The landmark 2005 decision regarding sentencing guidelines for federal judges in United States v. Booker continues to be a concern. In Booker, the United States Supreme Court held that sentencing guidelines are advisory and that federal judges must consider them, but are not bound by the guidelines when making sentencing decisions.
The United States Sentencing Commission has followed sentencing trends since Booker. For 2007, the Commission found that 61% of all federal sentences were within the guideline range. Approximately 2% were above the range, and the remaining 37% were below the range. This is not a significant change from the pre-Booker era, and nearly all of the differences were due to downward departures from the guidelines. This trend is similar when looking specifically at environmental and wildlife crimes.
In a June 26, 2008 speech, Stacey Mitchell, chief prosecutor, explained that the Environmental Crimes Section of the DOJ has no new guidance in regards to Booker. The position of the DOJ is that Booker is fair and the current sentencing guidelines are appropriate. Mitchell acknowledged that there has been some disparity in sentencing, but the DOJ maintains that judges are following the guidelines. The DOJ will continue to monitor and assess sentencing.
Information available at:
United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).