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Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Chilton Brian S. | January 18, 2005

In a fractured opinion released this morning in United States vs. Booker and United States vs. Fanfan, the United States Supreme Court struck down the 17-year-old federal sentencing guidelines, reducing them to advisory rather than mandatory status. The business community has been anxiously awaiting the Court's decision to assess the impact on the federal sentencing guidelines' requirement that business entities maintain an "effective" compliance program. That wait is now over, and for the reasons discussed below, companies should assume that the compliance program aspect of the guidelines remains in force.

The Ruling

By a 5-4 vote (Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, Souter and Ginsburg) the Court applied the Sixth Amendment analysis advanced in Blakely vs. Washington, to the federal sentencing guidelines. In Blakely, the Court held that Washington state's sentencing guidelines violated the defendant's Sixth...

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