(Published December 14, 2020) The Influence of the Guidelines on Federal Sentencing updates the 2012 Booker Report’s examination of the influence of the guidelines range on average sentences imposed. Using sentencing data collected from 2005 to 2017, the analysis compares the average guideline minimum with the average sentence imposed under all guidelines in the aggregate and six individual guidelines across three time periods (Booker, Gall, and Post-Report periods). This report is the fourth in a series of reports.
- Inter-District Report (January 2020)
- Intra-City Report (January 2019)
- Demographic Differences Report (November 2017)
- 2012 Booker Report (December 2012)
Browse by Section:
- Introduction & Key Findings
- Summary of Findings
While the extent of differences vary depending on the individual guideline, the Commission found several overarching trends indicating that the guidelines generally continue to have a substantial influence on sentences imposed after Booker.
- In the wake of Booker and Gall and continuing into the Post-Report Period, the difference between the average guideline minimum and average sentence imposed widened for the federal caseload overall, indicating that the influence of the guidelines generally decreased after Booker rendered them advisory. However, this trend has not continued in the most recent years of the Post-Report Period, suggesting that the influence of the guidelines may have stabilized.
- The influence of the guidelines continued to vary substantially depending on the type of offense throughout the Post-Report Period. As indicated by the difference between the average guideline minimum and average sentence imposed, the guidelines continued to exert a strong influence on sentences imposed in firearms and illegal reentry offenses, a more moderate influence on sentences imposed in fraud and drug offenses, and a weakening influence in non-production child pornography offenses and career offender cases.
- Major amendments by the Commission to the drug trafficking and illegal reentry guidelines appear to have strengthened their influence during the most recent years of the Post-Report Period. The difference between the average guideline minimum and average sentence imposed for these two guidelines narrowed after the Commission reduced the Drug Quantity Table by two offense levels in 2014 and comprehensively revised the illegal reentry guideline in 2016.
- The guidelines generally exert a greater influence on sentences imposed in cases in which judicial discretion could be meaningfully assessed. Excluding cases in which judicial discretion could not be meaningfully assessed narrowed the difference between the average guideline minimum and the average sentence imposed for the federal caseload overall, and for all but one individual offense type studied, across every time period studied. This narrowing was largely attributable to the exclusion of cases with substantial assistance departures, which resulted in an average sentence reduction of 51.8%. Sentence reductions for substantial assistance require a government motion and afford substantial weight to the government’s evaluation.