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Details: Peugh v. United States

In this case, petitioner Marvin Peugh was convicted in federal court in 2009 on five counts of bank fraud for conduct that occurred in 1999 and 2000.  Based on the sentence recommended in the current version of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the district court sentenced him to seventy months in prison – a sentence that was almost twice as long as the one recommended in the version of the Sentencing Guidelines that was in effect when Peugh committed his crimes.  Peugh argued that the Ex Post Facto Clause, which (among other things) prohibits the passage of laws that impose a greater punishment than the punishment in effect when the crime was committed, required the court to sentence him using the earlier version of the Guidelines, but both the federal trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected that argument.

This morning, in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held that it does violate the Ex Post Facto Clause to sentence a defendant based on guidelines that were promulgated after he committed his crimes, when the new version provides a higher sentencing range than the version in place at the time of the offense.  The vote was five to four:  Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan joined the Court’s opinion in full, while Justice Kennedy joined all but a portion of the Court’s opinion.  Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined in part by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Alito; Justice Alito also filed a very brief dissenting opinion, which Justice Scalia joined.

The debate in the case was whether the Ex Post Facto Clause applies to the Sentencing Guidelines, now that they are no longer binding.  The majority held it does.  The ruling will control cases in which judges would apply newly adopted, tougher Guidelines to cases that are pending.

Opinion author in red. Dissenting Justices in grey.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Details: Peugh v. United States, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 10, 2013, 11:24 AM),