Sentencing typically occurs three or four months after the initiation of a federal criminal case, but it will depend on the court's calendar, the time that it takes the probation department to complete a report, and the time it takes for the prosecution to complete their position paper.
Ultimately, the judge will decide on a sentence for the defendant. Leading up to sentencing, a defendant will review discovery with their attorney and decide whether they want to fight the case, file motions to defeat the government's case, or enter a plea agreement. If a plea agreement is entered into between the prosecutor and the defense, then it will be signed by the defendant and a plea date will be set in court. If a deal can't be worked out with the government, then an open plea will be given to the court. At the time of the plea of guilty, the judge will set a sentencing date.
What Is The Importance Of A Pre-Sentence Report?
The purpose of the pre-sentence report is to give the judge some information about the defendant so that the judge can use that in deciding the severity of the sentence. The pre-sentence report goes over the defendant's family background, criminal background, and financial background. In addition, it will include character letters and any other information that demonstrates the positive aspects of the defendant's history.
The pre-sentence officer who does the report will also look at the facts of the case, provide the judge with case law that applies to the case, and make a recommendation to the judge as to their opinion on an appropriate sentence. The judge will weigh all of the information, including the information from the government prior to making a decision.
The pre-sentence report in a federal criminal case is very important because it gives the judge a chance to view the defendant in a positive light, outside of the charge they face. In some cases, the probation officer will get the information wrong in the pre-sentence report; when this occurs, the defense attorney needs to bring that to the attention of the judge and submit a sentencing memorandum on behalf of the defendant. The defense attorney will also submit objections to the pre-sentence report and their opinion on the proper interpretation of whatever issue is of concern.
If a person is in custody at the time that they are sentenced to time in federal prison, they will immediately be taken to prison. If a person is not in custody at the time that they are sentenced, judges in most jurisdictions will give them a certain amount of time to turn themselves in to the United States Marshals, and this is something that the defense can request.
If the defendant wants to surrender on a particular date, it will be up the judge to decide whether or not that will be allowed. Most judges are reasonable and will give someone 30 to 90 days to surrender.
Government agents, the judge, and the defense attorney are generally the only individuals present at a sentencing hearing, but there are circumstances where the alleged victim will speak. An alleged victim is entitled to make a statement to the judge at a federal sentencing hearing, it just isn't a common occurrence.
If the judge hears how severely the alleged victim has been impacted by the actions of the defendant, then the judge may be more inclined to give the defendant a harsher punishment. If, on the other hand, the judge hears that the defendant tried to make things right and correct their mistakes, then the judge may be more inclined to be more lenient.
What Does The Judge Consider When Determining My Sentence?
In a federal sentencing, the judge is going to consider several things, including the federal sentencing guidelines, which take into consideration the defendant's criminal record and criminal history, what happened in the current case, whether or not public safety is a concern, who the defendant impacted, how many victims there are, and how sophisticated the defendant was in the commission of the crime. These guidelines must be considered by judges across the country.
The judge will also consider mitigation's that the defendant is able to bring forth, such as family circumstances, whether or not they played only a minor role in the offense being charged, whether or not the defendant cooperated with the government, and whether or not the government made a downward departure recommendation based on cooperation. There are many potential considerations, but no two cases are exactly alike. It is best to discuss the specifics of a case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Typically, an appeal is available to either side when it comes to a federal criminal case. However, an appeal must have a solid basis; it cannot be brought simply because one side or the other is unhappy with the outcome of the case.
For example, a defendant could argue that the judge went outside the guideline range or considered an illegal factor, or that their lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel. Once someone enters a plea agreement with prosecutors, their appellate rights are going to be limited. Anyone who is considering a federal criminal appeal should discuss the details of the case with a qualified appellate lawyer who handles federal criminal appeals and is familiar with the jurisdiction where the case is pending.
Where Does A Federal Criminal Case Take Place Around Los Angeles?
There are a number of courthouses in the Central District where federal criminal cases take place, but the primary courthouse is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. First court appearances and post-indictment arraignments are generally brought at the Ronald Reagan building.
Within the Central District but outside of Los Angeles is the Santa Ana federal courthouse, which is sometimes utilized to deal with criminal cases, depending on where they took place. Contact a federal criminal defense lawyer to review your case.