The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Marvin Peugh, who contested the sentencing guidelines used by the court after his conviction for bank fraud in 2009. The case related to whether a court ought to use the sentencing guidelines in place at the time of trial or the guidelines in place when the offense occurred.
Mr. Peugh was sentenced to 70 months in prison for bank fraud he committed in 1999. In 1999, the sentencing guidelines for bank fraud recommended a sentence of 30 to 37 months. However, the court did not convict him until 2009, when the sentencing guidelines then in place recommended a sentence of 70 to 87 months. The decision, written by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, held that using the sentencing guidelines adopted after the offense took place is a breach of a defendant’s constitutional right not to be subject to laws that retroactively make an act illegal or cause him or her to face greater punishment.
Could I end up with a shorter sentence?
The effect of the Supreme Court decision in the Peugh case on existing sentences is still unclear. Some commentators have argued that on the strength of this decision, a convicted offender serving a sentence could file an appeal against the length of his or her sentence, if the length of the sentence is longer than it would have been had the court used the sentencing guidelines in place on the date that the offense was committed. However, in many cases, there may be no difference in sentencing guidelines between the date of the offense and the date of sentencing. Sentences that are most likely affected by the Supreme Court’s decision are those relating to offenses with a long statute of limitations, as there is a greater likelihood of a gap of a number of years between the date of the offense and the date of sentencing, in which the sentencing guidelines could have become stricter.
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