Statement on Signing the Sentencing Act of 1987
I am pleased to sign S. 1822, the Sentencing Act of 1987. The bill amends the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the goals of which are to reduce unwarranted sentencing disparity and to bring about certainty and fairness in sentencing. Many of the bill's provisions are aimed at improving the implementation of the act and easing the transition to the new sentencing reform system.
2 of S. 1822 provides that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 applies only to
offenses committed after it took effect on
I do not understand section 26 of S. 1822, which makes S. 1822 applicable to
offenses committed after its enactment, to affect the more specific language of
section 2. Therefore, I understand that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984
applies to offenses completed after it took effect on
The bill modifies, in section 3, the standard for imposing a sentence that departs from the applicable sentencing guidelines. The Sentencing Reform Act as originally enacted requires the court to impose a sentence within the applicable guideline range ``unless the court finds that an aggravating or mitigating circumstance exists that was not adequately taken into consideration by the Sentencing Commission in formulating the guidelines and that should result in a sentence different from that described.'' The amendment authorizes the court to depart from the guidelines if there exists such a circumstance ``of a kind or to a degree'' not adequately taken into consideration by the Commission. I understand this amendment merely to clarify the intent behind the past standard for sentencing outside the applicable sentencing guidelines and not to expand the extremely limited basis for such sentencing. Any other construction would undermine the guidelines and the purpose of the underlying statute of reducing unwarranted sentencing disparity. A narrow reading of the departure standard is vital to the proper implementation of the Sentencing Reform Act.
Note: S. 1822, approved December 7, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 182.