Some Defense Lawyers View Sentencing Commission’s New Data Tool as “Deeply Flawed”

The Federal Docket

October 19, 2021

In an article for Law360, Michael Yaeger, a white collar defense lawyer and former prosecutor, writes that the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s new tool for analyzing sentencing statistics is “deeply flawed.” Earlier this year, the Sentencing Commission released the Judiciary Sentencing INformation platform, called JSIN for short, which was designed to allow attorneys to review sentencing data for defendants based on their charges of conviction, their offense level, and their criminal history category. A user simply plugs in the applicable Guideline provision (i.e. 2B1.1 vs 2D1.1), the offense level, and the criminal history category, and JSIN provides the median and average sentence for defendants who meet those same criteria and who were sentenced in the last 5 years.

While the new data tool is great in concept, Yaeger writes that it creates a “misleading picture of sentencing” because the average and median federal sentences provided by JSIN does not include sentences of probation and home confinement and omits sentences where a defendant received a downward departure for cooperating under USSG 5K1.1. At the same time, JSIN includes above-Guidelines sentences and sentences imposed pursuant to a mandatory minimum. The effect, Yaeger writes, is painting a picture of sentencing that reflects higher sentences than are actually being imposed.

Click here to read the article on Law360.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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