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Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.
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Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 10:00 am
If you’re a first-time offender facing federal charges, you may be able to get a reduced sentence under certain circumstances. This article will explain how federal sentencing works and what options you have to try to lower your sentence.
Federal judges use the United States Sentencing Guidelines to determine sentences for federal crimes. The guidelines provide a range of recommended sentences based on the type of crime, the circumstances of the case, and the defendant’s criminal history.
First-time offenders generally have little or no criminal history, so they often start with a lower guidelines range. But the range is still just a recommendation – the judge has discretion to sentence above or below the range.
Two major ways to get a lower sentence are by accepting responsibility and cooperating with prosecutors. Defendants who do these things can often get sentences well below the guidelines range.
Simply pleading guilty does not mean you’ve accepted responsibility. You must show sincere remorse and make a good-faith effort to make amends, like paying restitution. Judges can reduce sentences by about 25% for acceptance of responsibility.
Providing “substantial assistance” to prosecutors in investigating or prosecuting others can also result in a reduced sentence. This often means testifying against co-defendants. Sentence reductions for cooperating depend on how useful you are to prosecutors.
Cooperators may also get a “5K1.1 letter” from prosecutors asking for a lower sentence based on cooperation. But the judge decides how much of a departure to grant.
The federal safety valve is a way around mandatory minimums for some first-time drug offenders. It requires:
If you meet these, the judge can disregard mandatory minimums and sentence below the guidelines. The safety valve only applies to drug crimes – not other federal offenses.
Some other arguments for shorter sentences include:
In some cases, judges can impose an alternative sentence other than prison, like:
Alternatives are only available for lower-level crimes with short recommended sentences. First offenders have the best chance at qualifying.
While mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines limit judicial discretion, first-time offenders can still qualify for shorter sentences by cooperating, accepting responsibility, safety valve, and other means. An experienced lawyer is essential to developing the best strategy for your situation.
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