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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Can a lawyer help reduce federal violent crime penalties?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 10:57 pm


Can a Lawyer Help Reduce Federal Violent Crime Penalties?

Getting charged with a federal violent crime can be scary. The penalties are often harsh, including long mandatory minimum sentences. But having a knowledgeable lawyer on your side can make a huge difference. A good lawyer understands the complex federal sentencing guidelines and laws. They know how to mount an effective defense to get charges reduced or dismissed. And if you are convicted, they’ll fight to get your penalty lowered as much as possible.

How Federal Sentencing Works

There’s no parole in the federal system. That means you must serve at least 85% of your sentence before being released. Mandatory minimums require judges to impose a minimum number of years for certain crimes. These laws strip away judicial discretion in sentencing. Prosecutors can also file for sentencing enhancements that add more time. It’s easy to end up with a 20+ year sentence if you don’t have an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer.

Federal sentences are based on the US Sentencing Guidelines. This complex formula considers the crime committed and prior criminal history. It calculates a sentencing range in months. Where you fall in that range depends on mitigating and aggravating factors. An experienced lawyer will look for ways to lower your range and get the lowest end. Let’s look at some strategies.

Getting Charges Dismissed or Reduced

One of the most effective ways a lawyer can help is by getting charges dismissed entirely or reduced to a lesser offense. They may find problems with how evidence was obtained or statements you made to police. Violations of your Constitutional rights can get evidence thrown out. For example, if the police searched your home without a warrant, a lawyer can argue that evidence was illegally obtained. If a judge agrees, it may be excluded from your trial.

Your lawyer may also negotiate with prosecutors to get charges dropped or reduced. Prosecutors know a strong defense can destroy their chances at trial. They may agree to lesser charges to secure a guilty plea. While this involves admitting guilt, the penalties may be far lower. A lawyer may also convince prosecutors to drop enhancements that would increase your sentence.

Using Case Law Precedents

Lawyers use past court decisions or precedents to support arguments for lower sentences. Precedents that led to lower sentences for similar crimes and defendants can be cited. For example, in US v. Pardee, the 9th Circuit upheld a below-guidelines sentence for two armed bank robberies. The judge considered the defendant’s difficult childhood and lack of guidance as mitigating factors. Your lawyer can argue these same factors warrant a lower sentence in your case.

Supreme Court decisions like Booker have also made the guidelines advisory rather than mandatory. This gives judges more discretion to impose lower sentences than the guidelines recommend. Your lawyer can leverage these precedents to convince a judge to go lower.

Using Sentencing Mitigating Factors

Lawyers also look at mitigating factors about the defendant and crime. Things like:

  • Minimal criminal history
  • Good character references
  • Steady employment
  • Serious medical issues
  • Minimal role in the crime
  • Remorse and accepting responsibility

These factors can persuade judges to go below guidelines ranges. Lawyers present evidence and witnesses that humanize defendants. Testimonies from family, friends, employers can show redeeming qualities. Documentation of medical conditions requiring treatment may also help. The goal is to convince judges the guidelines sentence is too harsh.

Alternatives to Incarceration

For some non-violent offenses, lawyers can argue for alternatives to prison. These include:

  • Probation – Defendants remain in the community under supervision
  • Home confinement – Defendants are restricted to their home except for work/appointments
  • Community confinement – Defendants live in halfway houses instead of prison

Lawyers argue these options allow defendants to receive treatment and keep jobs. Judges have discretion to impose alternatives under 18 USC §3583. But they’re still a tough sell for violent crimes.

Cooperation Agreements

For major crimes like murder, robbery or drug trafficking, prosecutors may offer a deal. Defendants can provide information about co-conspirators or testify for the government. In exchange prosecutors may agree to:

Drop certain charges
Not pursue sentencing enhancements
Recommend a reduction for “substantially assisting” investigators

This allows judges to impose sentences below mandatory minimums. But it involves major risks, like retaliation from those you inform on. An attorney can advise if it’s worth it to cooperate.

Appealing the Sentence

If all else fails, your lawyer can appeal the sentence. Appeals argue the judge made mistakes in applying the law or guidelines. Common grounds are:

  • Incorrect calculation of sentencing range
  • Refusing to consider mitigating factors
  • Failing to explain why a guidelines sentence was imposed
  • Bias or reliance on inaccurate information

If the appeals court agrees, they may order re-sentencing before a new judge. This provides another chance to argue for a lower sentence. But appeals are complex and often unsuccessful. Your lawyer must identify strong grounds.

The Value of an Experienced Lawyer

As you can see, an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer has many tools to reduce sentences. They understand complex laws and guidelines. They can mount an aggressive defense and negotiate effectively with prosecutors. During sentencing they’ll cite precedents and mitigating factors to convince judges to go lower. And they can appeal if you receive an unfair sentence.

Facing federal violent crime charges is scary. But having the right lawyer by your side can help reduce penalties. Don’t go it alone against the power of the government. Hire a knowledgeable federal criminal defense attorney to fight for your freedom.


USSC Frequently Asked Questions

US Sentencing Guidelines Manual 2021

US v. Pardee

US v. Booker

18 USC §3583

18 USC §3553

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