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White-Collar Criminals In Lockup

Since 2005, United States district judges have had quite a bit more discretion under the Federal Sentencing Act. While intended to eliminate unfair sentences, the decision may have had the reverse impact, at least in white-collar crime cases.


Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act in 1984, which gave rise to the United States Sentencing Commission. The Commission was tasked with developing sentencing standards for use in all federal criminal cases all throughout the country.

The resulting United States Sentencing Guidelines made sentencing in criminal cases a strictly mechanical process: the judge considered the category of offense, the defendant’s prior criminal history and the extent of the defendant’s cooperation with federal prosecutors to determine the sentence. Critics of the new system claimed that the Guidelines effectively eliminated plea-bargaining and created absurd sentences. For example, one man is currently serving a triple-life sentence for his role in a $1,500 cocaine deal.

The 2005 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Booker drastically changed the sentencing landscape when the Court declared that the sentencing guidelines were merely advisory.

White-collar crime cases

Judicial discretion’s re-entry into the sentencing equation has re-ignited the old debate about the fairness of white-collar crime sentences.

  • While the Sentencing Guidelines were deemed unfair by some because of their seemingly unfair treatment of some offenders, some critics now point to the lenient sentences given to some notable white-collar criminals.
  • Others defend the sentences being handed out, pointing to the high costs of feeding and housing an inmate and the lack of a societal interest in incarcerating a nonviolent criminal for an extended period of time.

In the end, it is probably better to have a judge and jury decide the appropriate sentence, as opposed to a government bureaucrat. New Jersey criminal defense lawyers stand ready to advocate for you and secure the lowest sentence possible — regardless of the charged offense or the evidence against you.

Work with experienced New Jersey attorneys who will represent your side

At Arsenault, Whipple, Fassett and Azzarello, L.L.P., our attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience. Our attorneys are highly rated for their excellent legal skills and high ethical standards. Contact us for a free consultation.

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