The Champion

July 2007 , Page 9 

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By Jack King

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In a Federal Sentencing Guidelines decision handed down June 21, the Supreme Court again made it clear that the guidelines are merely advisory. Counsel may argue that the case falls outside the “heartland” of the guidelines, or that the guidelines sentence fails properly to reflect the sentencing factors Congress identified, or that the “case warrants a different sentence regardless.” The Court reaffirmed that district courts must exercise discretion based on the individual characteristics of the defendant and the circumstances of the offense, imposing a sentence that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary” to comply with the goals of sentencing.

“In determining the merits” of these arguments “the sentencing court does not enjoy the benefit of a legal presumption that the Guidelines sentence should apply,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a majority of the court. The Guidelines may reflect a “rough approximation” of an appropriate sentence in a crim

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