The federal sentencing guidelines may not bind judges
Today, the Fourth Circuit revisited Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007) and Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338 (2007), in ordering a resentencing where a sentencing judge "stated that while it did not agree with the Guidelines range, it was ‘obligated’ to give [defendant] Mendoza a Guidelines sentence unless ‘a reason for a departure from those Guidelines, or a variance based on 18 U.S.C. § 3553’ was present. Because prefacing a sentencing explanation with such obligatory terminology amounts to an impermissible presumption that a Guidelines sentence is appropriate, see Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 351 (2007), we believe the prudent course is to remand for re-sentencing. In doing so, however, we do not imply that the district court’s Guidelines sentence was substantively unreasonable or that Rita remands are warranted in cases where there exists no serious possibility that the district court treated the Guidelines as presumptively binding." U.S. v. Mendoza-Mendoza, ___ F.3d ___ (4th Cir., March 5, 2010).