Sentencing is an important aspect of any criminal case, as it is the stage of the process where the court determines the penalties a defendant will face. Decisions made in the sentencing phase can mean the difference between hope and despair. In federal drug cases, it is particularly important for criminal defendants to work with an attorney who understands how the Federal Sentencing Guidelines work, so that they have the strongest possible advocacy at this stage.

The first thing to understand about the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is that they are not mandatory upon federal judges, but rather advisory. Federal judges to strongly consider the guidelines when making decisions. They guidelines work by prescribing a sentencing range based on the seriousness of the offense for which the defendant was convicted and the defendant’s criminal history. 

Offense seriousness begins with a base offense level for the particular offense, and this offense level can increase or decrease based on specific characteristics of the offense. These specific characteristics vary from offense to offense. In drug trafficking case, for example, the base offense level is applied based on the nature of the crime, but the offense seriousness level can be increased under a number of circumstances. Some of these include cases where a dangerous weapon was possessed in connection with the offense, cases where the defendant used violence or made a threat of violence, and cases where the drug was distributed in a prison, correctional facility or detention facility.

Beyond specific offense characteristics, the offense seriousness level can be increased or decreased based on factors that can apply to any crime. Adjustments can be made on several bases, including: factors related to victims of the crime; the defendant’s role in the offense; whether the defendant obstructed the administration of justice; whether the defendant accepted responsibility for the offense; and whether there were multiple counts of the same offense.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this subject, and how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure a defendant has the best possible advocacy in the sentencing phase of the criminal process.

Sources:

Ussc.gov, United States Sentencing Commission 2016 Guidelines Manual

Ussc.gov, An Overview of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Accessed May 25, 2017.

an offense, and this offense level can increase or decrease based on specific characteristics of the offense. These specific characteristics vary from offense to offense. In drug trafficking case, for example, the base offense level is applied based on the nature of the crime, but the offense seriousness level can be increased under a number of circumstances. Some of these include cases where a dangerous weapon was possessed in connection with the offense, cases where the defendant used violence or made a threat of violence, and cases where the drug was distributed in a prison, correctional facility or detention facility.

Beyond specific offense characteristics, the offense seriousness level can be increased or decreased based on factors that can apply to any crime. Adjustments can be made on several bases, including factors related to victims of the crime, the defendant’s role in the offense; whether the defendant obstructed the administration of justice; whether the defendant accepted responsibility for the offense; and whether there were multiple counts of the same offense.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this subject, and how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure a defendant has the best possible advocacy in the sentencing phase of the criminal process.

Sources:

Ussc.gov, United States Sentencing Commission 2016 Guidelines Manual

Ussc.gov, An Overview of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Accessed May 25, 2017.