What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
Sentencing in federal court is predicated on sentencing guidelines established by the United States Sentencing Commission. The purpose of these sentencing guidelines is to ensure two people with the same background who committed the same crime will be treated similarly at sentencing even if one person is sentenced in Maine and the other in Missouri. With such a large federal system it is important for the government to make every effort to ensure a consistent application of the laws, especially when it comes to something as discretionary as sentencing. The guidelines provide federal judges with a series of calculations regarding the criminal offense committed and the person’s criminal history. These calculations then result in an offense level and a criminal history category. Those two numbers are plugged into a chart to determine the proper recommended sentencing range.
Are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Mandatory?
No, the federal sentencing guidelines are advisory and a federal judge can deviate from the recommended sentencing range. The sentencing commission even provides judges with a series of factors to take into account when determining whether a sentence within the recommended range is appropriate in a given circumstance. There are seven factor, but two of the most common of the seven are 1) the nature and circumstances of the offense, the history and characteristics of the person to be sentenced; and 2) the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.
Although there are nearly countless factors that can affect the sentencing calculation in any particular case, there are several factors that are taken into consideration in almost every case:
- The level (if any) of violence
- The quantity of any controlled substance involved
- Criminal history
- Role and participation in the offense (major vs. minor or minimal role)
- The value of loss to victims
- If a firearm was carried during the offense, or used in commission of the offense
All cases are different, especially when it comes to the intricacies of the federal sentencing guidelines, so it is important to consult an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to discuss how the guidelines affect a case and what implications they may have on sentencing.
Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Korner
If you, or a family member face federal criminal charges or have questions about the federal sentencing guidelines, then contact The Law Office of Jason A. Korner. You can schedule a free consultation with Mr. Korner by calling 314-409-2659. You can also click here to fill out an information form and Mr. Korner will call you to discuss your case and your rights.
Resource Links for the Federal Sentencing Guidelines