Federal Crimes Blog

Role of Federal Sentencing Guidelines in a Criminal Case

Posted by Hedding Law Firm | Jan 15, 2021

Sentencing guidelines in federal cases across the nation, in my opinion, having done this for 27 years, basically act as a guideline for the judge, the prosecutor and the defense in how and what sentence a criminal defendant will receive in a federal case.

What I mean by that is, it is undisputed that the judge has the ability to go outside the guidelines when sentencing a criminal defendant.  It's also undisputed that the prosecution and the defense can request sentences outside the guidelines.

Seeking a Lower Federal Sentence

Role of Federal Sentencing Guidelines in a Criminal Case

In fact, it's common for defense attorneys to try to get a lower sentence than what the guidelines show for a particular defendant.  There's a whole bunch of different factors that bear in on that.  For example:

  • defendant's criminal history,
  • offense level,
  • any enhancements that might apply, and
  • any downward departures that might apply.

For example, being a minimal player, a minor player.  There's 5K departures where the government is requesting leniency for a defendant who has cooperated with them. There's consideration of a person's family circumstances, there's the safety valve. There's a whole host of different downward departures that can be utilized by the defense.

When we talk about what role these sentencing guidelines play, the judge is basically commanded by the legislature and the Supreme Court of the United States to consider the sentencing guidelines when enacting any sentence against a criminal defendant.

Judge Must Consider Sentencing Guidelines

But after the judge considers those guidelines, he or she can then feel free to sentence the defendant to what they feel is appropriate.  They cannot go:

  • above the statutory maximum for the particular crime; and
  • they can't go below the statutory minimum for the particular crime, unless
  • someone mounts an argument to be able to permit the judge to go below a mandatory minimum sentence that can be argued by both the defense and the prosecution.

So, the sentencing guidelines are important.  They're going to be the baseline so to speak when the judge is considering what an appropriate sentence should be in a federal criminal case.

Obviously, you want to be very familiar with those guidelines as a criminal defendant and as a defense attorney as they apply to your particular case, so you have an idea of what range you're going to be in if you plead guilty and accept a plea bargain with the government.

Review of Sentencing Chart with Your Defense Lawyer

There's a sentencing chart that relates to the sentencing guidelines that your attorney should be able to show you, so you can look at it:

  • look at what your criminal history,
  • look at what offense level you're at based on a particular charge that the prosecutors are trying to get you to plead to,
  • see if there are any enhancements that apply, and then, of course,
  • any downward departures that might be applicable to your case, and
  • anything else you could do that might influence the judge to the positive for you.

For example, let's say there's a large amount of restitution owing in your case.  Paying that restitution or a substantial portion of it upfront is a big argument for your defense attorney to say to the judge, look, give him a break.  There is also a reduction for substantial assistance.

Either go below the mandatory minimum, go below the guideline range, or at least sentence the person to the low-end of the guidelines.

Criminal Defense for Federal Crimes

What you need to do is pick up the phone.  Hire an attorney like Ron Hedding.  I've been doing this now for 27 years. I've handled many federal cases across the nation.

Criminal Defense for Federal Crimes

I  know what it takes to get you the best sentence and will try to use the sentencing guidelines in your federal case to your advantage and who is going to fight for you.

So, pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  You can usually get ahold of me fairly quickly.

We can talk about what a potential sentence might be in your case and see what I can do to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436.

We serve clients in California and throughout the United States, including Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, and Texas. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0994.

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