skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 136366 Find in a Library
Title: Prosecutor's View of the Sentencing Guidelines
Journal: Federal Probation  Volume:55  Issue:4  Dated:(December 1991)  Pages:31-37
Author(s): T E Zeno
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 7
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines core concepts underlying Federal sentencing guidelines, reasons for sentencing reform, effects of mandatory minimum sentences and guidelines on prosecutorial discretion, and the effect of the Thornburgh Memorandum on plea bargaining.
Abstract: Congress established some consistency in sentencing by passing statutes that require judges to impose mandatory minimum penalties on defendants convicted of certain offenses. Although judges can increase sentences above mandatory minimum levels, they cannot reduce the minimum to reflect relevant mitigating characteristics as they can under the current sentencing guidelines. Thus, mandatory minimum offenses, which have been uniformly upheld as a legitimate exercise of congressional authority over sentencing, actually encroach further into the domain of judicial discretion than do the guidelines. In contrast, mandatory minimum sentences actually increase the prosecutor's discretion. Contrary to popular misconceptions, however, the guidelines do not transfer authority over sentencing from judges to prosecutors. Judges retain exclusive power to accept or reject plea bargains, to find facts upon which sentences will be based, and to decide the precise sentence within the guideline range. The Thornburgh Memorandum articulates the core policy on plea bargaining: Federal prosecutors should initially charge the most serious, readily provable offense or offenses consistent with the defendant's conduct. Practicalities of prosecution under the sentencing guidelines are discussed that concern charging decisions, plea bargaining, presentence investigations, sentencing hearings, and substantial assistance departures. 28 footnotes
Main Term(s): Prosecutorial discretion; Sentencing guidelines
Index Term(s): Judicial discretion; Mandatory Sentencing; Plea negotiations; Sentencing reform
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.