5th Circuit Holds Sentencing Guidelines Constitutional

There's now a split in the circuits. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has held the federal sentencing guidelines constitutional in US vs. Pineiro, no. 03-30437. (pdf.) The panel was unanimous. One of the panel members was Bush recess appointee Charles Pickering. Link via Sentencing Law and Policy which has analysis up already.

Also, check out Blakely Blog. Looks like we're headed back to the Supreme Court on this one.

Update: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' (NACDL) letter to Sen. Hatch on Blakely is here.

Update: ABA President Dennis Archer sent Sen. Hatch this letter today in advance of tomorrow's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Some quotes:

Appreciating the turmoil that Blakely has evidently produced in the federal courts, Congress may wish to declare the federal guidelines temporarily advisory. Under this short-term approach, any judicial finding of sentencing facts would not have the force and effect of law and would therefore, presumably, not contravene Blakely.
In the longer term, our established ABA policy, which is reflected in the Criminal Justice Standards on Sentencing (3d ed.), supports an individualized sentencing system that guides, yet encourages, judicial discretion while advancing the goals of parity, certainty and proportionality in sentencing. Such a system need not, and should not, inhibit judges’ ability to exercise their informed discretion in particular cases to ensure satisfaction of these goals.

We are particularly opposed to any reform measures, whether interim or permanent, that compel waiver of Blakely rights. For example, a system that would require the court to impose the maximum sentence unless the defendant moved to be sentenced pursuant to the guidelines, would burden the constitutional right to a jury trial recognized in Blakely, and might well be regarded as an attempt to evade Blakely’s holding. In any case, any law or policy that relies upon the ability to force defendants to waive their constitutional rights for its effect must be regarded as extremely problematic in a just society.

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