Court Ruling Could Impact Federal Sentencing Guidelines

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has invalidated a sentence based in part on a previous conviction; the finding is based on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that instructs lower court judges how to define crimes as violent. The ruling has led dozens of federal inmates in Maryland to challenge their sentences.

The federal sentencing guidelines mandate a longer sentence for an unlawful re-entry defendant who has previously been convicted of a violent crime, but the appeals court found that state law did not define first degree burglary clearly enough to be considered a crime of violence in the context of federal statute. The case centered on the role of these federal statutes in interpretation of the sentencing guidelines, which give judges a number of factors to consider when they impose a sentence.

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