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Blakely's Silver Lining: Sentencing Guidelines, Judicial Discretion, and Crime

56 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2006  

Joanna Shepherd

Emory University School of Law


The Supreme Court's recent striking down of criminal sentencing guidelines in its Booker and Blakely decisions could have a substantial unexpected benefit: the likely expansion in judicial discretion may reduce crime. I show that, contrary to the expectations of many of the original supporters of sentencing guidelines, guidelines are associated with significant increases in crime. After developing several economic theories of guidelines' impacts, I investigate these impacts empirically using a large state-level data set. This study is the first to use regression analysis to explore the relationship between sentencing guidelines and crime. Results show that guidelines are associated with increases in both violent crime and property crime. If, as is probable, the alternatives to guidelines after Booker and Blakely expand judicial discretion in criminal sentencing, then crime may decrease substantially.

Keywords: Blakely, Booker, sentencing, sentencing guidelines, judicial discretion, violent crime, property crimes

Suggested Citation

Shepherd, Joanna, Blakely's Silver Lining: Sentencing Guidelines, Judicial Discretion, and Crime. Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 58, 2007; Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 06-14; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 06-24. Available at SSRN:

Joanna Shepherd (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-8957 (Phone)

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