04 Jun 23

What are the Sentencing Guidelines and how do they affect me?

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Last Updated on: 30th August 2023, 05:47 pm

The United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines are essentially rules, which federal judges have to follow when deciding criminal sentences for defendants in cases. Here’s a quick overview of how federal sentencing guidelines work and how they could potentially impact defendants:

  • The federal guidelines provide a pre-calculated range of recommended criminal sentences based on the offense committed and the defendant’s previous criminal history. Judges use this range as a starting point and have some leeway.
  • There are some factors that are important, like the severity of the crime, whether weapons were used, financial and economic losses, and the defendant’s role in the crime — all of these variables affect the final calculation. Mitigating factors can reduce the sentencing range.
  • Federal judges must consider the guidelines, but they aren’t mandatory. Federal judges can impose sentences above, or below, the sentencing range if the circumstances warrant it.
  • For you – the defendant, the federal guidelines provide an estimate of what your potential final sentence could be. Knowing the sentencing range helps inform you plea deal decisions and sentencing expectations.
  • During the sentencing phase, your federal attorney will present arguments for a lower sentence based on the guidelines, calculations and other mitigating factors in your case.
  • If you receive a sentence above or below the federal guidelines, this can be used as grounds for an appeal after sentencing.
  • The federal sentencing guidelines look to provide consistency in sentencing across similar cases. It’s fair to say – they are complex and you should discuss how they apply specifically to your situation when speaking to your federal defense attorney.