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How Do The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work?

What are Federal Crimes?

These are a violation of laws or statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress. Federal crimes differ from state crimes in the sense that the latter are a violation of laws or statues enacted by a local authority or the state legislature. Federal crimes are more concerned with addressing nationwide criminal activity.

Examples of Federal Crimes
• Bank robbery
• Band fraud
• Counterfeiting
• Small business loan fraud
• Merchant cash advance fraud
• Civil rights offenses
Mail fraud
• Health care fraud
• Firearms offenses

History of Federal Sentencing
Before 1987, federal judges sentenced persons depending on their individual cases. Judges had discretion to hand out maximum penalties. This system was such that there was a great difference between the sentences hand down to individuals situated in different places. These differences were addressed by the setting up of the United States Sentencing Commission that was responsible for developing a standardized sentencing system. This commission enacted sentencing guidelines that outlined uniform sentences for all federal crimes. These guidelines provide that an individual sentence should be based on the type of offense charged and an individual’s criminal history.

In 2005, significant changes were made to the federal sentencing process. The Supreme Court in Booker stated that the guidelines for sentencing were not mandatory and also changed the process of appeal for a federal sentence. This means that federal judges do not have to sentence a defendant following the sentencing guidelines. However, they must take these guidelines into account when sentencing.

The Federal Sentencing Process
If a defendant pleads guilty, it always results from a plea agreement. This is an arrangement between the prosecutor and defendant on what action the defendant is going to accept guilt and what the sentencing shall be. The defendant will then confess their guilt to the judge in what is referred to as the allocution.

Pre sentence Report
Following the allocution, your case is headed towards sentencing. First, the U.S. Department of Probation arranges for a pre-sentence interview. During the interview, the probation department drafts a pre-sentence report (PSR) and the defendant is given an opportunity to correct the report if there are any omissions or mistakes. Thereafter, the PSR is handed to the judge and contains a recommendation on the suitable sentence for the defendant’s crime.

The Sentencing Memorandum
The defendant is afforded the opportunity to justify their actions before the court through their criminal attorney. The defendant’s attorney presents to the court a sentencing memorandum that persuades the judge that the defendant should get a lesser sentence because of the nature of the defendant and the circumstances that led to the crime.

The Sentencing
After the judge receives the pre sentence report, prosecutor’s recommendation and sentencing memorandum, he/she is ready to issue a sentence. A judge may choose to follow the sentencing guidelines or depart up or down when issuing a verdict. Some of the factors that a judge considers before sentencing include:

• Whether the defendant is a repeat offender or first time offender
• Whether the defendant was the main offender or an accessory (assisting the main offender)
• Whether the defendant performed their criminal actions under duress or great personal stress
• Whether somebody was hurt
• Whether the criminal act was done in a way that would not have resulted in anyone getting hurt
• Whether the defendant was cruel, destructive or vindictive when committing the crime
• Whether the defendant is remorseful

How Do The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work?

When sentencing someone in a federal case, the judge uses Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines are set by Congress to establish minimum and maximum time of imprisonment according to preset criteria. While the guidelines offer important oversight, the rules are somewhat flexible. It means that judges may also deviate from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines based on the particular circumstances of a case.

To determine the length of a prison sentence, the guidelines take into account two factors:

  1. The seriousness of the crime
  2. The criminal history of the person who committed the crime.

The Seriousness of the Crime

The seriousness of the crime is one of the main factors that determine the length of a sentence. The sentencing guidelines offer 43 levels of offense that can either sentence a person to less than a month or put them in prison, forever.

43 Base Offense Levels

To determine the severity of a crime the judge looks at the base level. There are 43 base levels. The base offense level is the starting point. For instance, the base level for trespassing is 4 while the base level for kidnapping is 32. Based on the base offense level, a kidnapper will get a lengthier prison sentence than a trespasser.

Charcateristics of the Offense

It is important to understand that base levels are just a starting point. The judge can increase or decrease the base level. Let’s take a look at the following examples to understand this concept:

  • Fraud is a 7 base offense level. However, it doesn’t make sense to give similar sentences to a person involved in a $6,000 fraud and another person charged with a $50,000 fraud. Based on the degree of financial loss, there is to be a 2 offense level increase to the sentence of a person involved in a $6,000 fraud and a 6 offense level increase to the person charged with a $50,000 fraud. Under these circumstances, the final offense level is 9 points and 13 points in two different cases.
  • Robbery is a 20 base offense level. If a robber threatened the plaintiff with a gun, the judge can add 5 levels to the base offense level. Similarly, if the weapon was discharged in a robbery, even if it didn’t result in injury or death, the judge may add 7 offense levels to the base level. Accordingly, the offense level will increase to 25 and 27 levels based on two different scenarios.

Adjustments in Offense Level

Despite the existing guidelines on offense level, a judge can increase or decrease the level subject to certain conditions. For instance, anyone convicted on multiple counts will likely receive a higher level because there is more than one conviction. If additional counts are significant, the most serious offense is taken as a base level and other counts are added incrementally.

Judges can also reduce the offense level if the offender truthfully admitted the role, made restitution before the guilty verdict, or pled guilty.

Criminal History

Criminal history is the second important factor the determines the overall length of imprisonment. Based on the past criminal record, the judge assigns a specific category, ranging from I to IV, to each offender.

Category I is assigned to someone who doesn’t have a criminal background. On the other hand, a habitual criminal, who has committed several crimes, may be given, Category 6. The higher the category, the higher the probability of getting a lengthy sentence.

Take a look at the example in the previous section. Let’s assume that there are two people involved in a robbery and both of them used a weapon. One of them is a first-time offender while the other is a hardened criminal with a history of crimes. While the judge will assign each robber 25 points, 20 points for robbery, and 5 points for threatening with a gun, the final offense level will be higher for the hardened criminal.

In simple words, federal sentencing guidelines also consider the criminal history of the perpetrator when determining the length of imprisonment.

The Guideline Range

The length of the term is determined in months.

A sentencing table offers an easy-to-understand visual guideline for the judge. There are usually six columns in a sentencing table indicating the criminal history level from I to IV. Similarly, there are 43 rows, each reflecting the offense level from 1 to 43.

The point at which the criminal history level and the offense level intersects defines the total number of months of imprisonment.

Taking guidance from the sentencing table, this is how a judge may determine the imprisonment guideline range:

Person A:
No Criminal History – Category I
Offense Level – 25
Guideline Range for Category I and Offense Level 25 is 57 to 71 months imprisonment.

Person B:
Hardened Criminal – Category VI
Offense Level – 25
Guideline Range for Category I and Offense Level 25 is 110 to 137 months imprisonment.

The Final Verdict

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are established to offer consistency and to make it easier for the judges to determine the length of imprisonment. Despite these guidelines, judges can select to depart from the range. This usually happens if the judge determines that a particular case falls outside the normal range. In doing so, they still need to provide a reason to deviate from the range.

For the prosecutors to make a sensible judgment on any case they preside on, they must follow specific guidelines. Such guidelines ensure a fair verdict whenever there is a case.

Mostly, the judgment can be severe on the defendant and favorable at times. What determines the level of the harshness are the Federal Sentencing guidelines. Read on for a better understanding of how Federal Sentencing Guidelines work.

In the past, judges were subject to some different guidelines from the federal ones. Unfortunately, they could not go beyond them when making their decisions regarding a case. They used to calculate and ensure that their decisions fell within the limit.

Fortunately, ten years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the guidelines were unnecessary because they limited the judges’ decisions. The judges were left with little room to exercise their jurisdiction.

Today, the judges can comfortably make decisions (Severe or less severe) by either going above or below the law. Such guidelines are effective to the defendant because they help in determining how harsh the judgment should be.
The federal sentencing Guidelines help to establish an offense level. The offense level intends to determine the level of seriousness of the offense committed. It also considers the criminal’s past offense history record. The historical record helps decide how frequently the offender has been in criminal offenses.

However, besides other considerations, the essential thing is the seriousness of the offense. If the crime committed is too severe, the defendant’s chances of getting a fair verdict are minimal compared to a less intense/harmful violation that cannot command a harsh verdict. The defendant’s criminal history also plays a significant role in determining the kind of judgment delivered. Here is how it works.

· Base Offense level

Each crime always has a starting point. According to federal guidelines, the base level is the starting point of each offense. The seriousness of the crime determines the base level. For instance, when robbers steal $40 Million from a bank, and other robbers also steal $10 Million from another bank, those who stole $40 Million will face a serious base level.

· Specific Nature of the offense

The base level is determined by several hidden factors that you may not know unless you understand law concepts. You can only understand them better through your attorney if you have the right one. Using the above instance, if the robbers had other crude weapons at the time of the act, the offense will increase in levels. Assuming it was at level one, it will grow to level two because of the weapons.

· Accommodates adjustments

As the cases progress, the judge can make other considerations. For instance, the court may want to figure out the role the offenders played in the crime and other victim-related adjustments. Such considerations help the court in determining the kind of treatment to give the case.

What happens when the defendant is guilty?

According to federal guidelines, the offense levels can reduce to either two or three if the judge figures out that the defendant has accepted offense responsibility. That is a scenario that may not occur in other countries’ courtrooms.

Impacts of Federal sentencing guidelines

The advantage of the policies is that they create room for reducing sentencing variances during sentencing. They also make reasonable level ground for delivering judgment. When the judges stick to the guidelines, the defendant’s or victim’s rights violation will be minimal.

The guidelines also make it possible to know who should be in prison under harsh treatment and who should not. For instance, defendants who commit serious crimes are likely to be sentenced harshly coupled with cruel treatment in prison. With less critical cases, one gets subtle punishments, such as engaging them in community service.

Even though many argue that federal guidelines are the best, they have received a high criticism level. For instance, its opposers say that many offenders are less violent in federal prisons, yet they don’t pose any threat to the state. They suggest that the best thing is that face cheap forms of punishment as other sentencing guidelines dictate.

Conclusion

From the above information, you can derive how effective federal guidelines are when making a verdict. But as a defendant or a victim, you need a knowledgeable attorney who understands how to make them favor you.

For a better understanding, visiting this site. Probably your attorney is misguiding you with a lot of theories that you may not understand. So understanding how the guidelines work will enable you to know when and where they are applicable.


Charle Butler
Charle Butler
2021-03-12
I was hesitant to hire the Spodek Law Group. I read reviews and knew they have a great reputation. However, I thought I would spend money and not see or speak to my attorney. From the beginning to end of my case Todd and the entire staff were available and willing to help. We worked towards and end result that was way above my expectation and Todd delivered. I am forever grateful for patience and long days and night spent working on my case. Thanks Todd and the entire team!
Mesonista parsons
Mesonista parsons
2021-03-05
My attorney at Spodek was Abigail. She was very knowledgeable and helpful with all my questions and concerns, as well as responsive. Her fees are affordable and Abigail took the time to make sure I understood everything relating to my case. I highly recommend Abigail and will request her services in the future.
debabrata chakraborty
debabrata chakraborty
2021-03-03
Todd A Spodek is the experienced and best criminal lawyer at USA. He is very professional and always respond on time. Alex also very cooperative and always help me. They took care me and my problem like family member. I am 100% satisfied for their professional service. My result was unexpected and amazing. They dismissed my case. I am really grateful to them. I will recommend you to go there if you want to solve your problem. I wish all the best for them.
Asata Hendricks
Asata Hendricks
2021-03-02
Truly appreciate the work the guys did!. Exceptional team & I know they care about each and everyone of their clients. I am super thankful to be referred to Spodek Law Group and I am grateful Todd & Alex were able to work diligently to achieve an outcome I am pleased with. Despite COVID they stayed on top of things and kept me informed every step of the way. Very thankful.
Mike Moroff
Mike Moroff
2021-02-26
I'm very satisfied with the services rendered by Todd, Alex and Mary Lou. I whole heartedly recommend Spodek Law Group . I've worked with and have retained other attorneys in the past with Todd's firm being the cream of the crop for many reasons. A very serious legal matter was resolved after a year's hard work and effort. Todd expertly guided me through the process and was able to navigate and make the good journey bearable as well as successful. Mary Lou initially provided excellent assistance before referring my case to Todd. Alex's support was effective and timely. The customer portal (MyCase) is an invaluable communication tool that also kept track of my case. Various aspects of my case were explained and there were several options provided but I made the final decision of how the case would be handled. The legal fee was reasonable considering the effort and amount of work plus it was a flat fee regardless of the length of time required to conclude my case. Todd made himself available to me and we had many scheduled meetings to go over the progress and to discuss the next steps. I felt more confident after many discussions with him. You will not go wrong choosing Spodek Law Group for legal matters.
Josh Katz
Josh Katz
2021-02-24
Being that it was the first time that I was in need of an attorney, I was afraid and hesitant and knew I needed the absolute best. It is beyond understood why Spodek Law Group has a reputation of being the top, if not the best law firm in New York. Alex and Abigail were there every step of the way even at the most unconvenient hours. I could not have asked for more. They are extremely good at what they do and they delivered much much more than just winning my case. A big thank you to Alex and Abigail for all the guidance and counseling and their upmost loyal support that extended far more than just legally. If you need the absolute best than don't hesitate to hire Spodek Law Firm.
L.C.
L.C.
2021-02-24
I cannot tell you how thankful I am to Todd and Alex for their hard work and dedication to my case. I had never been in any trouble before but I had an unfortunate event occur and in the midst of COVID-19 at that therefore I knew I needed a team that was dedicated to my success. Today- my case has been finalized and I’m walking away with no record and can continue life as a mother and a Grad student worry free. I cannot express enough gratitude for their assistance.
AnnMarie Soliman
AnnMarie Soliman
2021-02-23
I received a summons and called Spodek law group for a free consultation. Alex took my call and was very quick and responsive. He was available anytime through multiple platforms and very reassuring when needed. They are extremely organized and thorough. They got my case dismissed! I’m very grateful. Thank you Alex and Todd!

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