The universe of sentencing considerations can be divided between offense conduct and offender characteristics. Historically, offense conduct (e.g., harms to victims, whether a weapon was used, the amount of money stolen or drugs trafficked) and offender characteristics (e.g., an offender's prior criminal history, employment record, family circumstances) have both played a significant role in sentencing decisionmaking, and both types of considerations remain central in modern sentencing systems. But the distinctive import and impact of offense conduct and offender characteristics at sentencing have not often been carefully and systematically examined.

This Article will explore, both historically and normatively, the consideration of offense conduct and offender characteristics at sentencing. Part I outlines the shifts in sentencing theory and offense/offender focus, while Part II analyzes the Supreme Court's recent sentencing jurisprudence. These Parts spotlight numerous important and illuminating connections between the offense/offender distinction and sentencing theory, constitutional jurisprudence, and modern sentencing reforms. They also highlight that federal sentencing reforms, when examined with a particular focus on offense/offender issues, exhibit some disconcerting attributes. Part III offers a few basic recommendations that would enable the federal sentencing system to strike a sounder balance, as have many state sentencing systems, in the consideration of offense conduct and offender characteristics at sentencing...

 

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