When you’re facing sentencing in a federal court, you’ll want an experienced attorney by your side. The punishment for a federal crime is often harsher than what you would receive in a local or state court. The federal court rate of convictions is also high when compared to other courts. You might think you can represent yourself, but that’s generally not a wise idea. And in the event of a conviction, you’ll need an attorney to help you during the federal sentencing process.
Federal sentencing takes place after you’re convicted of a federal crime. The judge determines if you’ll spend time in prison. If so, the judge then determines the length of that punishment. But there is a procedure the courts must follow before the judge can make any determinations.
The first part of this procedure involves an interview. A probation officer will conduct this interview to learn more about you. The point of the interview is to create a pre-sentence report the judge can use before deciding on the punishment. The prosecutor and defense lawyer also receive copies of the pre-sentence report.
The report includes information about your family life, financial history, social standing, criminal history, and education. The purpose is to provide an in-depth look into your character and circumstances. Information in the report may or may not affect the judge’s final decision. Because of its importance, you have the right to object to anything in the report.
In addition to the pre-sentencing report, the attorney will prepare a sentencing memorandum. The memorandum contains letters of support from family and friends. Supporters can also state why they think you deserve the lightest sentence possible. The judge receives a copy of this memorandum prior to the sentencing hearing.
The final step in the sentencing process involves the sentencing hearing. The judge gets one more chance to hear from your attorney and the prosecutor prior to your sentencing. You can also choose to make a statement, but it’s not mandatory. If you decide to speak, you and your attorney should prepare a statement before the day of the hearing. What you say here can possibly sway the judge’s decision either in your favor or against it.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
The pre-sentencing report and the sentencing memorandum are important. They play a huge role in the judge’s final decision. But the federal sentencing guidelines are important as well. The sentencing guidelines are contained in a book issued by the sentencing commission. The guidelines suggest a range of imprisonment for specific federal crimes. The judge will refer to the guidelines but is not required to follow them.
Ultimately, the decision concerning punishment rests with the judge. The pre-sentencing report, sentencing memorandum, and sentencing guidelines are there for guidance. But in the end, the judge makes the final decision no matter what the reports and guidelines recommend.
Some additional things the judge should consider include the specifics of the crime. What was the reason for the crime? Did the crime cause harm to anyone? Do you have a criminal history? Did something in your background affect your behavior in a negative manner? These are just samples of the type of questions a judge is likely to consider.
Communicating with Your Attorney
It’s important for you and your attorney to discuss your situation in-depth. Failing to communicate with your attorney can hurt your case. Remember that the attorney is there to represent you to the court. The goal is to receive the best possible outcome, even if that does include a conviction. Working closely with a good attorney can increase your chances of receiving a favorable outcome.
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