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Judicial Sentencing Guidelines - Hazards of the Middle Ground

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 68 Issue: 4-5 Dated: (October/November 1984) Pages: 161-171
Date Published
11 pages
Florida and Maryland were selected to participate in an experiment in which one set of sentencing guidelines were developed for several localities within the same State.
This multijurisdictional experiment relied on the same 'model,' involving three basic characteristics: judicial initiation, voluntary compliance, and empirical development. Taken as a whole, the multijurisdictional test in Florida and Maryland demonstrated that it is possible to develop and implement judicial guidelines. The test also gives rise to several cautions about the implementation of sentence reforms in general and the use of judicial, empirical, voluntary guidelines in particular. Both States experienced pockets of resistance to the guidelines which limited the test's success. Using even the most conservative estimates, it appears that judges did not comply with the requirement to consider the guidelines for as many as 15 percent of the eligible burglary cases in one State and 43 percent in the other. The States also fell significantly short of full compliance with the requirement to provide reasons for extra-guidelines sentences. There were no means available to enforce compliance with the guidelines' requirements on the part of the judiciary, the defense, or the prosecution. The fundamental source of the shortcomings lies with the guidelines' voluntary implications. Guidelines can and should be developed through a normative, consensus building process. It is in this respect that mandatory guidelines offer the greatest advance over previous sentencing reforms. Twelve footnotes are listed.

Date Published: January 1, 1984