Michael Vick and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Michael Vick has pled guilty to charges in Federal Court stemming from his connection to a dog fighting ring. As a result, Vick faces sentencing in Federal Court in December. In the past, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines have been mandatory. Therefore, Federal judges had little to no discretion in sentencing offenders. Depending on the offender’s prior criminal history, cooperation with the government, and other aggravating and mitigating factors, points are added and deducted to determine the length of the sentence. However, this all changed in October 2004 when the Booker decision came down from the United States Supreme Court. In Booker, the USSC made the Federal Sentencing Guidelines advisory rather than mandatory and reinstated judicial discretion in sentencing. As a result, things have changed significantly which could affect the sentence of Michael Vick. The prosecutors, as a result of Vick’s plea bargain, are recommending 12-18 months (the minimum under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines). However, because of the judicial discretion involved, Vick could receive the maximum five-year sentence. The judge in this case, Henry E. Hudson, has a reputation for being tough on crime. We will see if the Booker decision and re-emergence of judicial discretion in sentencing offenders in Federal Court affects the sentence of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.