My excitement about Blakely’s impact on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines was tamped down by my sense that the federal judges in my district seemed to like the guidelines most of the time. Departures were rare except for “substantial assistance” situations and it often felt as though upward departures were more common.
In a sentencing this week, a client received a non-guideline “reasonable” sentence that would have been reversible when the guidelines were not advisory. There were solid named grounds for departure under the Guidelines for aberrant behavior
and lesser harms. Without considering any departures though the guideline range for my client was 24-30 months. The judge sentenced him to one year and a day.
My first clue that this was an unusual case was when one of the Deputy Marshals in the courtroom at an early hearing thought that my client should never have been charged. The sentence was firm but fair, a year in prison is a lot for someone who has never had a real brush with the law before. Even though I think guideline sentences will be the norm here, it is good to have a safety valve.