The United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case that could have major implications on the federal sentencing process. At question is the extent of the court’s authority when it comes to sentencing guidelines and thresholds relating to non-violent crimes. The case began with the appeal of Michael Eastman, a former lawyer for President Donald Trump who was convicted on charges related to campaign finance violations. At the center of the debate is the extent to which the sentencing guidelines provided by the U.S. Sentencing Commission can be considered binding on courts.
Eastman was sentenced to two years in federal prison and he appealed the ruling, arguing that the sentencing guidelines — which set a two-year maximum sentence for the crime in question — should have been applied to him. The argument was rejected by the lower court and Eastman appealed to the Supreme Court. Eastman’s counsel argued that the court should defer to the guidelines set by the Sentencing Commission, which should be considered binding in sentencing cases.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case could have far-reaching implications for sentencing. The Court’s justices will have to decide whether sentencing guidelines are binding or if judges should be allowed to consider aggravating factors and impose harsher sentences. Although the maximum sentence for Eastman’s crime was two years, the actual sentence imposed due to the amount of property damage involved, was nine years. The Court will have to decide if such sentences are appropriate when it comes to federal guidelines.
The Court’s ruling could potentially set a precedent for federal sentencing cases and could affect similar cases going forward. It remains to be seen how the Court will rule. For now, Eastman’s appeal has been denied and his sentence stands.