Procedural Rights at Sentencing

54 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2014 Last revised: 14 Jun 2014

Carissa Byrne Hessick

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law

F. Andrew Hessick

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law

Date Written: April 28, 2014

Abstract

In determining which constitutional procedural rights apply at sentencing, courts have distinguished between mandatory and discretionary sentencing systems. For mandatory systems ― systems that limit sentencing factors and specify particular punishments based on particular facts ― defendants enjoy important rights including the right to a jury, the right to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to notice of potential sentencing aggravators, and the right not to be sentence based on ex post facto laws. By contrast, for discretionary systems ― systems that leave the determination of sentencing factors and how much punishment to impose based on particular facts to the judge’s discretion ― defendants do not enjoy these protections. This Article challenges this discrepancy. It argues that, given the rationales underlying each of these rights, there is equal reason to apply these rights in discretionary sentencing systems as in mandatory ones. As it explains, procedural rights regulate the means by which facts are found and the manner in which courts use those facts, and consequently are critical to discretionary systems. Just as in mandatory sentencing systems, judges in discretionary systems must make factual findings to determine the appropriate sentence to impose. The Article argues that the various justifications for providing fewer procedures in discretionary schemes are based on misconceptions about the nature of discretion at sentencing and inaccurate historical analysis.

Keywords: criminal sentencing, trial rights, constiutional rights, judicial discretion, United States v. Booker, Sixth Amendment, Due Process, jury trial right, Ex Post Facto Clause, proof beyond a reasonable doubt

Suggested Citation

Hessick, Carissa Byrne and Hessick, F. Andrew, Procedural Rights at Sentencing (April 28, 2014). Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 90, 2014 Forthcoming; University of Utah College of Law Research Paper, No. 80. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2430265

Carissa Byrne Hessick (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

F. Andrew Hessick

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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