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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The court considers the impact on the federal sentencing guidelines of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (June 24, 2004). Defendant Francisco D. Pineiro was convicted in the district court of violating the federal controlled-substances laws. During sentencing, the district judge followed then uncontroversial pre-Blakely procedures and made various factual findings that determined Pineiro’s sentencing range under the Guidelines. HOLDING:Affirmed. Blakely does not extend to the federal guidelines and Pineiro’s sentence did not violate the U.S. Constitution. The aspect of Blakely that threatens the federal guidelines is the court’s reasoning regarding the relevant “statutory maximum” for Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), purposes. In the wake of Blakely, the constitutional fate of the federal guidelines depends on whether the guidelines effectively operate as statutes that define different offenses with different maximum sentences; expressed in different terms, the question is whether a guidelines sentencing range unenhanced by judicial findings sets a “maximum sentence” for purposes of Apprendi. The guidelines, unlike Washington’s sentencing act, are not statutes, but they are nonetheless binding on sentencing courts. Blakely may have weakened the long-embraced distinction between United States Code maxima and guidelines ranges, but the court cannot conclude that Blakely � which explicitly reserved comment on the guidelines � has abolished the distinction’s importance. The sentencing scheme at issue in Blakely, like that involved in Apprendi, essentially established two distinct statutory maximum sentences, with the choice between them turning on judge-made findings of fact. In such a circumstance, it makes sense to say that the legislature has effectively created distinct offenses. When the legislature has thus created different offenses, the defendant has a right to have a jury of his peers decide whether he is guilty of all of the elements of the more aggravated offense. But the Guidelines do not present such a stark case. The court does not believe that the Sentencing Commission can be thought of as having created for each United States Code section a hundred different Apprendi “offenses” corresponding to the myriad possible permutations of guidelines factors, with each “offense” then requiring jury findings on all of its (guidelines-supplied) elements. Given the nature of the guidelines, the court thinks the better view � and one that respects the prior decisions of both the Supreme Court and this court � is that the relevant “offenses” and “maximum punishments” are those defined and authorized by Congress in the United States Code. Judicial findings under the guidelines that set sentences within that authorized range therefore do not offend the Constitution. OPINION:King, C.J.

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