It used to be, back before 2005, that the federal sentencing guidelines were mandatory. If you were going to be checking into the United States Bureau of Prisons, the sentencing guidelines determined how long your reservation would be for.
And, it used to be, that if you committed a federal crime, and, between when you committed the crime and were sentenced, the sentencing guidelines went up, the judge had to apply the lower sentencing guidelines from when you committed the crime.
To do otherwise would violate the Ex Post Facto clause.
The sentencing guidelines changed, though, with Booker. Now they aren’t mandatory – they’re just something important that a federal judge has to look at and a federal judge may be risking reversal if she doesn’t follow them.
Got that? The guidelines are totally discretionary. But for the appellate review. Also most federal judges follow the guidelines almost every time. But that’s just a coincidence.
So, since the guidelines are no longer mandatory, but, rather, now just followed in the vast majority of cases, what happens to the Ex Post Facto clause?