U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Judicial Discretion to Consider Sentencing Disparities Created By Fast-Track Programs: Resolving the Post-Kimbrough Circuit Split

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2011 Pages: 1423-1455
Tom McKay
Date Published
33 pages
This article examines the split between the Circuit Courts regarding judges' use of fast-track sentencing programs.
Fast-track sentencing programs enable prosecutors in certain districts to offer defendants sentences that are below Federal sentencing guidelines in exchange for the defendant's guilty plea and waiver of certain rights. These programs are used most often in districts along the Southwestern border where courts are overwhelmed by the number of cases involving illegal reentry of immigrants. However, these programs have recently been expanded to non-border districts and are being used in cases with a variety of immigration-related offenses. The result of these fast-track programs is the existence of sentencing disparities between jurisdictions. This article examines the split between the Circuit Courts on whether judges can consider fast-track disparities when sentencing defendants. The article begins with a discussion on modern judicial sentencing discretion. This is followed by a look at the history of fast-track sentencing and the interaction of fast-track programs and judicial sentencing discretion. It concludes with a comparison of fast-track and career-offender sentencing guidelines and notes that judges should be allowed to use discretion when sentencing offenders under the fast-track program.