How to Get a Short Sentence in Federal Criminal Case

By Spodek Law Group | November 2, 2021

Is It Possible to Get a Short Sentence for a Federal Crime?

In general, federal crimes tend to carry higher than average prison sentences. However, facing federal charges does not necessarily mean that you will end up spending a long time in prison. Judges take many factors into account when deciding how long of a sentence you should get. To get a short sentence, you need to understand the factors that go into reducing a prison sentence.

Certain Charges Carry Lesser Sentences

Of course this might seem fairly obvious, but it is worth pointing out that various crimes have different types of recommended sentences. The thing to keep in mind is that your lawyer may be able to help you argue you do not qualify for a certain charge. For example, the same death could qualify as either manslaughter or murder depending on what happened. Your lawyer could show that the crime was not premeditated which could mean your charges are downgraded to one with a lesser sentence.

If You Weren’t the Lead Criminal, Your Sentence Is Shorter

In crimes with multiple people involved, federal sentencing guidelines take into account each person’s role. If you were not the leader who planned the crime, your sentence could be shorter. To argue for a shorter sentence, you would need to present proof that your role was minimal. It might also help to show that other participants misled or pressured you into the crime.

Your Behavior During the Crime Affects the Sentence

Federal sentencing guidelines include exceptions for special circumstances. Essentially, various crimes can be committed in various ways, so committing a milder version of the crime results in a shorter sentence. The exact type of activity that shortens your sentence will depend on the crime you committed. For example, in cases of fraud, a fraud of more than $6,000 lengthens the sentence, and fraud of more than $50,000 increases the sentence more. So if you can argue that your actions did not cause the victim to lose more than a certain threshold amount, your sentence might be lighter. Another common example occurs during robberies with a firearm. If you only waved the weapon instead of brandishing it, you can get a shorter sentence.

Accepting Responsibility Reduces Your Sentence

Regardless of the circumstances in your crime, accepting responsibility can help to lower your sentence. The court feels that those who accept responsibility are already on the path to rehabilitation, so they might need less jail time. Accepting responsibility consists of doing things like pleading guilty, being honest about your role in the crime, and making restitution to the victims. While accepting responsibility can be a good strategy for a shorter sentence, it does come with some risks. There is a chance you may end up accidentally incriminating yourself if the prosecution’s case is not as airtight as it seems. You will need to talk to your lawyer and see if this is a good strategy or not.

You Get a Shorter Sentence If You Are Less Likely to Reoffend

In federal cases, they often assign lengthy jail time to people who seem to be a risk to the population. Therefore, those who seem least likely to commit a crime again end up with the shortest sentences. Your lawyer may need to show you are not violent or explain how your crime was a one-time lapse of judgement that will not occur again. To prove this, you may need to do things like present character witnesses or describe how your circumstances have changed.

Having a Shorter Criminal History Reduces Your Sentence

A final thing that the court considers is whether or not you have committed crimes in the past. Those who have never been convicted of a crime or have only been convicted of milder crimes will have a shorter sentence. Meanwhile, if you have already committed the same crime in the past, your sentence may be extended. There is not much you can do to alter this factor once your trial starts. However, your lawyer can help to emphasize your lack of criminal activity or provide context for why you committed crimes in the past.

To get the shortest sentence possible, you need the right support. A good lawyer can help present your case clearly and explain why you qualify for a shorter sentence. With the right representation, you may be able to avoid an extended prison sentence.

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