24/7 call for a free consultation 212-300-5196




When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

Indiana Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Understanding Indiana Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Basics of Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were created in 1987 to provide a more uniform sentencing policy for defendants convicted of federal crimes. The goal was to make sentences more proportional to the seriousness of the offense and the offender’s criminal history.8 Here’s the gist of how the guidelines work:

  1. Each federal crime is assigned a base offense level, which is a starting point for determining the seriousness of that particular offense.12 More serious crimes have higher base offense levels.
  2. The base offense level can then be increased or decreased based on specific offense characteristics. For example, the amount of loss in a fraud case or use of a gun in a robbery can bump up the offense level.12
  3. After factoring in any adjustments for things like the offender’s role and obstruction of justice, you arrive at the total offense level.12
  4. The offender is also assigned to one of six criminal history categories (I-VI) based on the extent and recency of their prior convictions, with I being the least serious and VI being the most serious.12
  5. The total offense level and criminal history category are then plugged into the sentencing table to determine the recommended sentencing range, stated in months of imprisonment.12

So in a nutshell, the guidelines provide a formula to calculate a sentence based on the offense committed and the offender’s prior record. The more serious the offense and the longer the criminal history, the stiffer the recommended sentence.

Sentencing Table Breakdown

Let’s take a closer look at the sentencing table to see how this plays out in practice. Along the top, you’ll see the six criminal history categories. Down the left side are the 43 offense levels. The number in each cell is the recommended sentence in months. For example, let’s say a defendant’s offense level is 23 and they fall into Criminal History Category I. Looking at the table, the recommended sentence would be 46-57 months (just shy of 4-5 years). But if that same defendant had a more extensive record putting them in Category VI, the guidelines would recommend 92-115 months (around 8-10 years) for the same offense conduct.12The table also has four “zones” (A-D) that determine eligibility for probation and other alternative sentences:

  • Zone A (offense levels 1-8): Probation available, with 0-6 months imprisonment possible
  • Zone B (levels 9-11): Probation with conditions of confinement like home detention or a halfway house
  • Zone C (levels 12-13): At least half the minimum sentence must be served in prison
  • Zone D (levels 14+): Prison only, no probation1213

So as you can see, the lower the offense level, the more flexibility a judge has to impose a sentence below the guideline range. But once you’re in Zone D, it’s prison time.

Departures and Variances

An important thing to understand is that the sentencing guidelines are advisory, not mandatory. This means a judge must consider the guidelines but is not bound by them.12 In calculating a sentence, the court can depart upward or downward from the guideline range if certain aggravating or mitigating factors are present.12 Some common reasons for a downward departure include:

  • Substantial assistance to authorities (i.e. cooperating with the government)17
  • Coercion and duress
  • Diminished capacity
  • Voluntary disclosure of the offense13

On the flip side, grounds for an upward departure could be:

  • Extreme conduct (heinous, cruel, brutal, or degrading behavior)
  • Abduction or unlawful restraint
  • Extreme psychological injury to the victim13

If an aggravating or mitigating circumstance is not adequately taken into account by the guidelines, the judge can also vary above or below the recommended range in accordance with the statutory sentencing factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).12 These factors include things like the nature and circumstances of the offense, the history and characteristics of the defendant, the need for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense and provide just punishment, the need to protect the public, and the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities.16 The key is that the judge must explain the reasons for departing or varying from the guidelines.12 And the sentence imposed must be reasonable in light of all the § 3553(a) factors.12

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Putting It All Together

Alright, let’s walk through the steps of calculating a guideline sentence from start to finish. We’ll use a hypothetical defendant, John, convicted of bank fraud.

Step 1: Determine the base offense level. The guideline for fraud offenses is found in § 2B1.1. The base offense level is 7.12

Step 2: Apply any specific offense characteristics. The main specific offense characteristic for fraud crimes is the amount of loss. Let’s say John’s scheme resulted in a loss of $250,000. Looking at the loss table in § 2B1.1(b)(1), that amount adds 12 levels. The offense level is now 19 (7 + 12).

Step 3: Apply any adjustments from Chapter 3 of the guidelines. Suppose John used sophisticated means to commit the fraud, like using fictitious entities and offshore accounts to conceal the offense. That’s a 2-level enhancement under § 2B1.1(b)(10)(C). The offense level is now 21 (19 + 2).

Step 4: Determine the criminal history category. John has two prior convictions, each resulting in sentences of 4 months. Per the rules in Chapter 4, each conviction is worth 2 criminal history points, for a total of 4 points. That puts John in Criminal History Category III.1213

Step 5: Determine the guideline range using the sentencing table. With an offense level of 21 and a Criminal History Category of III, the guideline range for John would be 46-57 months.12

Step 6: Consider any grounds for departure or variance. Let’s say John cooperated with the government and provided substantial assistance in prosecuting his co-conspirators. The government could file a motion for a downward departure under § 5K1.1. If granted, that would allow the judge to sentence below the 46-month guideline minimum. The judge would also consider the § 3553(a) factors in determining whether to vary from the guideline range. Suppose John is a first-time offender with a history of charitable works and has shown genuine remorse. The judge may find that a sentence below the guidelines is sufficient to achieve the purposes of sentencing. So there you have it – a crash course in federal sentencing! Of course, this just scratches the surface. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the guidelines and advocate for the best possible outcome in your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about how the federal sentencing guidelines work in Indiana? Here are answers to some common queries.

Are the guidelines mandatory?

No, the guidelines have been advisory since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker in 2005.12 This means judges must consider the guidelines but are not required to follow them. A judge can impose a sentence above or below the guideline range if they find that the other statutory sentencing factors warrant it.

What’s the difference between a departure and a variance?

A departure is a sentence outside the guideline range based on a specific guideline provision, like substantial assistance to authorities (§ 5K1.1) or coercion and duress (§ 5K2.12). A variance is a non-guidelines sentence based on the general sentencing factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).16

Can I get probation for a federal offense?

It depends on the offense level. Generally, straight probation is only available if the offense level falls within Zone A of the sentencing table (levels 1-8). In Zone B (levels 9-11), probation is possible but must include conditions of confinement like home detention or community confinement. In Zones C and D (levels 12+), at least half the minimum guideline sentence must be served in prison.1213

What happens if I plead guilty?

Defendants who plead guilty and accept responsibility for their offense can receive a 2 or 3-level reduction in their offense level under § 3E1.1.12 This can make a significant difference in the guideline range. Of course, pleading guilty is a big decision that should be carefully discussed with your attorney.

How much prison time am I facing?

The amount of prison time recommended by the guidelines depends on the total offense level and the criminal history category, as reflected in the sentencing table. The statutory maximum sentence for the offense of conviction sets the upper limit. For example, wire fraud has a 20-year statutory maximum.12 So even if the guideline range exceeds 20 years based on the offense level and criminal history, the sentence cannot exceed 20 years unless there are aggravating factors that increase the statutory maximum.

Can I get a sentence reduction later?

In some cases, yes. If you provide substantial assistance after sentencing, the government can file a Rule 35(b) motion asking the court to reduce your sentence.17 You may also be eligible for a sentence reduction if the guidelines are later amended and made retroactive, or if you successfully complete the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) in prison.16

Do I have to serve the whole sentence?

Most federal prisoners can earn up to 54 days of good conduct time credit per year, which can reduce the actual time served by about 15%.16  So if you’re sentenced to 120 months, you could be released after serving about 102 months with full good time credit.Keep in mind that good time credit is not guaranteed and can be forfeited for misconduct in prison. And some offenses, like those involving guns and large quantities of drugs, carry mandatory minimum sentences that must be served in full.16

Real-Life Examples

To give you a better idea of how the guidelines play out in practice, let’s look at a few real cases from the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana.

Case 1: United States v. Smith

John Smith was convicted of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams of methamphetamine.3 His base offense level was 30 based on the drug quantity. He received a 2-level enhancement for maintaining a premises for manufacturing drugs and a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a total offense level of 29.Smith had several prior drug convictions, placing him in Criminal History Category IV. The guideline range was 121-151 months. However, the statutory mandatory minimum sentence for the offense was 10 years (120 months), so the effective guideline range became 120-121 months. The court sentenced Smith to 120 months, the lowest possible sentence.3

Case 2: United States v. Jones

Jane Jones pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling $500,000 from her employer over several years.3 The base offense level for fraud is 7, but Jones received a 14-level increase for the loss amount, a 2-level increase for abuse of a position of trust, and a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, for a total offense level of 20.Jones had no prior convictions, so she was in Criminal History Category I. The guideline range was 33-41 months. However, the judge varied downward and sentenced Jones to 24 months, citing her otherwise law-abiding life, genuine remorse, and efforts to pay restitution.3

Case 3: United States v. Johnson

Robert Johnson was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.3 The base offense level was 20 because the defendant committed the offense after sustaining a felony conviction for a crime of violence. Johnson also received a 4-level enhancement because the gun was stolen and had an obliterated serial number. With a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, the total offense level was 21.Johnson had an extensive criminal record, including prior convictions for robbery, assault, and drug trafficking. He fell into Criminal History Category V, resulting in a guideline range of 70-87 months. The judge sentenced him to 84 months, in the middle of the range, noting the seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s long and violent criminal history.3 As you can see, the guidelines provide a starting point, but the specific facts of the case and the individual characteristics of the defendant can lead to very different sentences, even for the same offense.

The Role of Your Attorney

If you’re facing federal charges in Indiana, having an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner is crucial. Your lawyer can:

  • Investigate the case and identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor for a favorable plea deal
  • Object to any incorrect guideline calculations or enhancements in the presentence report
  • Argue for a downward departure or variance at sentencing
  • Advise you on the risks and benefits of going to trial vs. pleading guilty
  • Advocate for the lowest possible sentence based on the unique facts of your case

Remember, the guidelines are just one factor the judge must consider. A skilled attorney can paint a full picture of who you are as a person and why you deserve leniency, beyond just the offense level and criminal history score.

Schedule Your Consultation Now