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Kimbrough v. United States

Docket No.: 06-6330
Certiorari Granted: Jun 11 2007
Argued: October 2, 2007
Decided: December 10, 2007

Topics:

Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Sixth Amendment, abuse of discretion, Sentencing Guidelines

PartyNames: Derrick KIMBROUGH v. UNITED STATES
Petitioner: Derrick Kimbrough
Respondent: United States

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Derrick Kimbrough
v.
United States
552 U.S. 85 (2007)
Question Presented:

In United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), this Court held that mandatory application of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines violates a criminal defendant's right under the Sixth Amendment to have facts that increase his or her sentence determined by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court further held that to avoid the Sixth Amendment violation, the Guidelines are to be applied as advisory only, and as one of a number of factors both that a sentencing court must consider pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3553(a) in exercising its discretion in selecting a sentence and that a court of appeals must consider when reviewing the sentence for reasonableness. In light of the Court's holdings, the following questions are presented. (1) In carrying out the mandate of §3553(a) to impose a sentence that is "sufficient but not greater than necessary" on a defendant, may a district court consider either the impact of the so-called "100:1 crack/powder ratio" implemented in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines or the reports and recommendations of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 1995, 1997, and 2002 regarding the ratio? (2) In carrying out the mandate of §3553(a) to impose a sentence that is "sufficient but not greater than necessary" upon a defendant, how is a district court to consider and balance the various factors spelled out in the statute, and in particular, subsection (a)(6), which addresses "the need to avoid unwarranted disparity among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct"?

Question:

When imposing a sentence for distributing crack cocaine, may a District Court judge consider the impact of the 100-to-1 crack/powder ratio and the Sentencing Commission's view that the ratio leads to exaggerated sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine? May a District Court judge, in an effort to avoid a sentencing disparity, impose a sentence that is below the range recommended by the 100-to-1 crack/powder ratio in the Guidelines?

Holding: judgment reversed and remanded
Vote: 7-2
Opinion By:
Read KIMBROUGH V. UNITED STATES opinion (PDF)
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