June 18, 2013
On June 19, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Peugh v. United States. The question in this case was whether a court violates the Constitution’s prohibition on “Ex Post Facto” laws by using the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines in effect at the time of a defendant’s sentencing rather than those in effect at the time of the underlying offense, when the newer Guidelines provide a higher applicable sentencing range and thereby expose the defendant to a longer recommended sentence.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the Ex Post Facto clause precludes federal courts from using sentencing guidelines imposed after the defendant committed the underlying crime when the newer guidelines propose a higher applicable sentencing range for that crime. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan joined the majority opinion in full, and Justice Kennedy joined the opinion in all except Part III-C. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined in Parts I and II-C by Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, and Justice Alito. Justice Alito also filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Scalia.
To discuss the case, we have Carissa Byrne Hessick, who is a Professor of Law at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.