March 28, 2015
Working text of Amended RID bill for reducing drunk driving crimes and harms
As you should recall, we ended class on Thursday with a working draft proposal for new drunk-driving legislation. Here is what has made it through our drafting committee so far:
First Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of zero to five years max
Second Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of six month to seven years max
Third (or Greater) Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of two years to ten years max
In addition, a sentencing judge should (must?) give the minimum term for any DUI offense if and only when the defendant's BAC was .10% or lower and no tangible harm result from the offense. A sentencing judge should (must?) impose a sentence above the minimum if the defendant's BAC was above .10% or tangible harm resulted from the offense.
We could (and perhaps should) continue to discuss and debate other offense-related provisions to incorporate into this sentenceing --- e.g., we might provide more specific guidance/mandates concerning what other BAC levels or types of harms should/must result in a certain amount of jail time. But, in order to reduce the risk of potential unwarranted disparity, I think it may be even more important that we consider whether and how to provide some offender-related instructions to judges for the exercise of their sentencing discretion in this setting. And to get the discussion started, here are some proposals for consideration:
Proposal 1. A judge generally should (must?) sentence an offender at or near the applicable minimum term if and when the defendant has no criminal history, has pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility and shown remorse, and has demonstrated a willingness to seek treatment for any substance abuse or personal problems that may have contributed to the offense.
Proposal 2. A judge generally should (must?) sentence an offender at or near the applicable maximum term if and when the defendant has a significant criminal history, has refused to accept responsibility and shown remorse, and has failed to demonstrate a willingness to seek treatment for any substance abuse or personal problems that may have contributed to the offense.
(Contrary) Proposal 3. A judge generally should (must?) not in exercising his sentencing discretion consider in any way a defendant's criminal history, whether he has shown any remorse, or whether any substance abuse or personal problems may have contributed to the offense.
As these proposals are written, it is possible (but not essential) to favor both Proposal 1 and Proposal 2. But Proposal 3 is intended to be directly contrary to the Proposal 1 and my goal here is to explore whether and how you favor (or oppose) the consideration of some common offender-related sentencing factors.
I would encourage students to use the comments to discuss any part of this on-going debate over our new sentencing bill, and folks should feel especially free to propose any additional amendments and modifications to the bill. We will build on what we have done to date in our class discussion on Tuesday and Wednesday.
March 25, 2015
Intriguing federal fraud sentencing raising distinct offense and offender issues
As mentioned in class, this week we will continue to unpack the challenging question of exactly what are the essential aspects of the "offense" to be assessed and punished at sentencing, and next week we will focus on whether there are any essential aspects of the "offender" that must (or must not) be assessed and punished at sentencing. With both topics in mind, a story of an upcoming federal fraud sentence blogged at SL&P struck me as especially interesting: You be the judge: what federal sentence for modern sheriff playing Robin Hood?.
Here are the basics of the offense based on press accounts:
Charge(s) of conviction: federal mail fraud, carrying a statutory range of 0 to 20 years in prison
Real conduct: "created hundreds of fake police reports [over and 18 month period] for a friend who ran a credit repair business so people could claim their identities were stolen and get out of credit." Main victim seems to be the credit company Equifax, and there is not tangible evidence the offender received any money for his fraudulent behavior (but his friend in the credit repair business made thousands of dollars from the scheme and may have paid the offender cash for his assistance).
Here are the basics of the offender based on press accounts:
Characteristics at time of 2012-13 crime: Male, heavy-set, 37 years-old, sheriff of southern county.
Background: "no criminal record, ... has suffered from depression and anxiety the past four years [and] has migraines, high blood pressure and insomnia." The now-former sheriff "was raised in a broken home, saw his mother abused by a boyfriend and left at age 17 to relieve her of financial burden [while they] resided in a poverty-stricken area." The offender joined the county "in 1997, two years after graduating high school and rose to chief deputy, becoming sheriff in April 2010."
Today and for the next few classes, we will talk about offense and offender sentencing issues using this real case (rather than the fake Rob Anon case) as a focal point. Consider and be prepared to discuss whether and how you think sentencing law could and should require (or preclude) consideration some of the facts listed above at sentencing. Also, consider whether there are any additional facts about the offense or the offender you would like to know before sentencing.
March 24, 2015
National and Ohio drunk driving harms data for sentencing exercise
There are lots of sites worth checking out concerning the scourge of drunk driving, and this webpage from The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has lots of helpful links to lots of helpful data. For example,this page has a really nice simple chart highlight that drunk driving death nationally in recent years have been around 10,000 per year, which is about 1/3 less than the yearly average a decade ago. This decline in deaths arguably proves that tougher criminal laws work as this decline correlates with more states adopting .08% BAC as the legal limit AND with more states requiring ignition locks as punishment for DUI offenses.
But "only" 10,000 DUI deaths each year still means that, on average, more than 25 persons are killed by a drunk driver every single day in the US. This website with official Ohio highway stats reveals that Ohio has averaged more than 400 drunk driving deaths per year (meaning more than one per day). As I mentioned in class, these number are only slightly lower than the total number of deaths from intentional homicide: roughly, the US has averaged about 14,000 murders and Ohio has averaged around 500 murders per year in recent years.
Ohio's current penalties for drunk driving (called OVI) are effectively outlined on this webpage, and Senator Madd, the new head of the Judiciary Committee, made reducing drunk driving deaths and injuries a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. He also knows that, as explained on this MADD webpage, roughly "one-third of the drunk driving problem – arrests, crashes, deaths, and injuries – comes from repeat offenders. At any given point we potentially share the roads with 2 million people with three or more drunk driving offenses. Taking away their licenses isn’t enough; 50-75% of them drive anyway."
Senator Madd is eager to work with any and everyone on legislation to make Ohio's roads and all its citizens safer. He sees some potential merit in both the RID and TOUGH bills that have been proposed, but he is eager to get some additional input from fellow legislators about the best ways to move forward on these fronts.
March 22, 2015
Reminders and updates ... about class and sentencing cases we have been following
I hope everyone enjoyed Spring Break as much as I did and also that everyone is looking forward to an exciting final month of our sentencing class. This post provides a couple of reminders about on-going activities as well as some updates that might be of interest as we close out March sentencing madness:
1. Everyone has a chance to submit an extra mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), ideally by 12noon on Monday, March 23. The required prompt: "What topic(s) are you eager for us to discuss in class more before the end of the semester?" Recall that, though all students are required to submit at least three mini-papers before the end of the semester, extra credit will be rewarded to those who submit more than the minimum.
2. This week in class, we will focus on what should be "the offense" for sentencing purposes. Specifically, should only the formal specifics of the offense of conviction be considered at sentencing (the "charge offense") or should sentencing involve at least some real specifics of how the offense was actually committed (the "real offense"). As you consider this seemingly basic question, review your prior efforts sentencing Rob Anon prior to modern reforms and under the federal sentencing guidelines. Did the charge offense or the real offense matter more to you when sentencing in the discretionary pre-guideline world? How about in the guideline world? And what does the US Constitution have to say about this according to the Supreme Court in the Watts case?
3. You may recall we talked earlier in the semester about the upcoming sentencing of former Connecticut Gov John Rowland. Here is how that turned out: Former Governor John Rowland Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison. In addition, we have been following death penalty debate in Pennsylvania, and here is an interesting "who" development on that front: "Victim's wife: Keep me out of death penalty fight"
March 9, 2015
Links to all the key guidelines for modern FSG sentencing of Rob Anon
With apologies for the delay, I will now finally through this post provide some hints and help for sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines. Here are links to the key provisions of the "official" on-line version of the now-applicable US Sentencing Guidelines as provided on the US Sentencing Commission's website:
- §2B3.1 Robbery
- §3B1.1. Aggravating Role
- §4A1.1. Criminal History Category
I highly encourage class members to start working through these "basic" federal guideline sentencing materials on their own (and then use the comments to express frustration) before looking for any more sentencing help. That said, if (when?) you want/need some more help, here is a link to a worksheet created by the US Sentencing Commission intended to aid in the guideline sentencing process:
As you work through this assignment, please feel free use the comments to express what it feels like to sentence in the federal system now that a whole lot of law has been brought into the process.
Though I continue to hope I am doing a good job with my low-stress, high-learning class mantra, it is very important in my view for everyone to get through the Rob Anon guideline sentencing experience ASAP; having done so will be essential to getting the most out of our classes the rest of this month. If you have already done this exercise, do it again and/or review your work. If you have not done it yet, please do.
More evidence that the death penalty will keep pulling us back in...
To paraphrase the most memorable line from the least memorable Godfather movie, just when I thought we could be done with our discussions of the death penalty and who sentences, the media and the US Supreme Court keep pulling us back in. Specifically, check out these recent notable posts from my main blog:
- Examining some statistical realities behind federal death penalty administration
March 8, 2015
Pre-Monday reminder of Monday deadlines and events
Just a quick note to remind everyone that...
1. If you are submitting a mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), it is due by 12noon on Monday, March 9. The suggested prompt was "could/should the law consider the subjective experience of imprisonment in some way," though you are always welcome of write on any topic of interest and relevance to recent class readings/discussion/activity.
2. Speaking of recent class readings/discussion/activity, you should be spending some time trying to figure out how to sentence Rob Anon pursuant the the federal sentencing guidelines. Here is a first "hint" with more to come in a subsequent post: Entire 2014 Federal Sentencing Guidelines linked via USSC
3. At noon in the Public Service Law Center is a lunch with Allen Bohnert, Moritz Class of 2006 (profiled here). The lunch is a brown-bag affair, but I will treat for lunch for a few students who let me know ASAP that the would be interested to come with me and Allen to eat at Eddie George's after the talk.
March 4, 2015
Seeking reflections/reactions to today's pre-reform federal sentencing exercise
We will talk on Thursday about the experience of sentencing Rob Anon under the pre-reform discretionary federal sentencing system, but I wanted to start the process of reflection on the pre-reform system with this post and a place for comments.
Did your experience strengthen your understanding for Judge Frankel's concerns and call for reform?
What aspects of the sentencing experience surprised or concerned you the most?
March 2, 2015
Some more on prisons past, present and future
This post provides a space for discussion of last week's video about Eastern State Penitentiary and more generally about prisons as out modern default sentencing "output." If you are interested in learning more about Eastern State, check out this terrific website. Notably, in recent years ESP has been trying to incorporate more modern art and education into its tours; it is working now on an ambitious new exhibit for 2016 titled "Prisons in the Age of Mass Incarceration."
In addition, there are lots of other (in)famous prisons that tell stories about not only American crime and punishment, but also stories about America. A number of notable Ohio-centric stories to be found within in this history, as documented by this book entitled "Central Ohio's Historic Prisons," which is summarized this way:
With the opening of the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896, the state legislature had put in place "the most complete prison system, in theory, which exists in the United States." The reformatory joined the Ohio Penitentiary and the Boys Industrial School, also central-Ohio institutions, to form the first instance of "graded prisons; with the reform farm on one side of the new prison, for juvenile offenders, and the penitentiary on the other, for all the more hardened and incorrigible class." However, even as the concept was being replicated throughout the country, the staffs of the institutions were faced with the day-to-day struggle of actually making the system work.
The Ohio State Reformatory referenced in this passage is located in Mansfield, and is now an historic site. I urge everyone to take a virtual tour via this huge photo gallery. And if you are ever looking for some web-surfing fun, check out these additional links to some good sites about some of the United States' most (in)famous prisons:
Notably, a few years ago, students had a lot to say in the wake of watching the ESP video, and you might be interested to read these 2011 student comments about prison history. This coming week, we will be shifting back into a discussion of sentencing law and the (non-capital) sentencing process, but everyone should keep thinking about both the theory and practices of imprisonment as a form of punishment as we get into the nitty-gritty of modern sentencing doctrines.
Also, of course, everyone should be thinking not just about the past and present of prisons, but also the future. To that end, check out this forward-looking video: