In federal criminal cases, federal law requires that judges consider the sentences other courts have imposed in factually similar matters. Courts and parties, however, face significant challenges in finding applicable sentencing precedents because judges do not typically issue written sentencing opinions, and transcripts of sentencings are not readily available in advanced searchable databases. At the same time, particularly since the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in United States v. Booker, sentencing precedent has come to play a significant role in federal sentencing proceedings. By way of example, this article discusses recent cases involving defendants with gambling addictions, and recent cases involving college admissions or testing fraud. The article explores the ways the parties in those cases have used sentencing precedent in their advocacy, as well as the ways the courts involved have used sentencing precedent to justify their decisions. Given the important role of sentencing precedent in federal criminal cases, the article finally looks at ways in which the body of sentencing law could be made more readily available to parties and courts alike.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.