Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1412888
 


 



Luck or Law? The Constitutional Case Against Indeterminate Sentencing


Dan Markel


Florida State University College of Law (deceased)

June 1, 2009

FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 376

Abstract:     
In the majority of states indeterminate sentencing schemes prevail -- under which the decision for whether a person serves anywhere from one year to a life in prison for a given crime is left largely to the unfettered discretion of a judge. Indeed, ever since the Supreme Court decided Booker v. United States and thereby rendered the federal sentencing guidelines “effectively advisory,” many state courts have read Booker to lend an imprimatur upon their indeterminate sentencing schemes. Thus, in many jurisdictions, virtually no restraints upon judicial and/or executive discretion exist to ensure that similarly situated offenders convicted of similar criminal conduct will, within the same sovereign jurisdiction, receive punishments that are roughly similar to each other.

This Article examines the case for, and the implications of, a finding that indeterminate sentencing schemes are impermissible under the federal Constitution. Looking at the history of the Framing Period and selected areas of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence over the last forty years, this Article explicates the constitutional restraints on arbitrary and/or discriminatory distributions of penalties, and finds little persuasive basis for the continued survival of indeterminate sentencing schemes. To the extent the Supreme Court is reluctant, as a matter of institutional competence, to make that finding explicit, the Article urges legislators at the federal and state levels to shoulder their co-equal burden of implementing the Constitution’s commitment to restraining the random, arbitrary, or discriminatory imposition of substantial punishment.

working papers series





Not Available For Download

Date posted: June 2, 2009 ; Last revised: July 9, 2009

Suggested Citation

Markel, Dan, Luck or Law? The Constitutional Case Against Indeterminate Sentencing (June 1, 2009). FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 376. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1412888

Contact Information

Dan Markel (Contact Author)
Florida State University College of Law (deceased)
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,118

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.297 seconds