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Federal Defense Sentencing Lawyers – An Overview

If you or a loved one have been charged with a federal crime, having an experienced federal defense sentencing lawyer on your side can make all the difference when it comes to the outcome of your case. Sentencing advocacy is a critical yet often overlooked part of defending federal criminal cases. This article provides an overview of federal sentencing laws and how a knowledgeable federal defense attorney can help advocate for the most favorable sentence possible under the circumstances.

How Federal Sentencing Works

Up until the mid-1980s, federal judges had wide discretion when it came to determining criminal sentences. However, concerns over sentencing disparities led Congress to pass the Sentencing Reform Act as part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. This law established mandatory minimum penalties for certain federal crimes and also created the United States Sentencing Commission.The role of the Sentencing Commission is to promulgate sentencing guidelines that federal judges are required to consider when determining sentences in criminal cases. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines provide a calculation based on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history to arrive at a sentencing range. While judges have more flexibility after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker made the guidelines “advisory” rather than mandatory, they still exert substantial influence over federal criminal sentences in practice.

The Importance of Sentencing Advocacy

Given the complexities of federal sentencing laws and guidelines, having an attorney who understands this framework and can effectively advocate for the lowest sentence possible is critical. Unfortunately, some defense lawyers make the mistake of focusing most of their efforts on obtaining an acquittal at trial and do not devote sufficient attention to developing a sentencing strategy in the event of a conviction.But the reality is that less than 5% of federal criminal cases go to trial, with over 90% resolved by guilty plea. Therefore, sentencing advocacy should be a top priority right from the start of any federal criminal case. Even if preparing for the possibility of trial, defense counsel cannot afford to wait until after a guilty verdict to begin formulating sentencing arguments.

How a Federal Defense Lawyer Can Help with Sentencing

So what exactly can an experienced federal defense attorney do when it comes to advocating for the most favorable sentence? Here are some of the most important ways skilled sentencing advocacy makes a difference:

1. Advisory Sentencing Guideline Calculation

Your defense lawyer will thoroughly examine the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to calculate the sentencing range that applies in your specific case. Determining the advisory guideline range requires a deep understanding of how various factors affect the calculation under the guidelines.These factors include things like:

  • The nature of the charged offense
  • The loss amount or drug quantity involved
  • Your role in the offense
  • Whether certain sentencing enhancements apply
  • Your criminal history score
  • Acceptance of responsibility

By aggressively challenging the prosecution’s calculations and putting forward defense calculations that result in a lower guideline range, your sentencing lawyer lays the groundwork for arguing for a lighter sentence.

2. Departure Motions

In some cases, there may be grounds under the guidelines themselves to argue for a “departure” from the normally applicable sentencing range. Grounds for a departure motion include things like:

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.
  • Overstated criminal history
  • Exceptional family circumstances
  • Coercion or duress
  • Diminished mental capacity

If your attorney can successfully argue that your case falls outside the “heartland” of typical cases covered by the guidelines, the judge has the authority to impose a sentence below the advisory range.

3. Booker Variance Motions

Another option for seeking a lower sentence is to argue for a “variance” from the guidelines based on the sentencing factors set out in 18 U.S.C. §3553(a). The Supreme Court‘s ruling in Booker gave judges more flexibility to impose non-guideline sentences by considering the §3553(a) factors.Your lawyer may advocate for a below-guidelines sentence by emphasizing factors like:

  • Your history and characteristics
  • The circumstances and context of the offense
  • The need to avoid sentencing disparities
  • Kind of sentences available

By presenting evidence and arguments related to the §3553(a) factors most favorable in your case, your attorney can urge the judge to find that a sentence below the guidelines is “sufficient but not greater than necessary” to serve the purposes of sentencing.

4. Collateral Consequences

Part of effective sentencing advocacy also involves making sure that the judge understands all of the consequences you are already facing or will face as a result of your conviction. These “collateral consequences” are technically not part of your criminal sentence but can dramatically impact your life.For example, a federal drug trafficking conviction may result in deportation for a non-citizen defendant. Your defense attorney can explain how the immigration impact and loss of your livelihood from being barred from certain occupations means that a lengthy prison sentence is not necessary to provide adequate punishment.

5. Sentencing Memorandum

Finally, your federal defense lawyer will summarize all of the arguments for a below-guidelines sentence in a thorough sentencing memorandum provided to the judge before the sentencing hearing. This written submission includes citations to relevant case law, guidelines provisions, and sentencing data to back up the sentencing recommendations.An effective sentencing memo leaves no stones unturned in humanizing the defendant and providing every conceivable legal basis to impose the most lenient sentence that can reasonably be justified.

Work with a Federal Defense Lawyer Today

If you or someone you care about is facing federal criminal charges, I strongly encourage you to speak with a federal defense lawyer right away. Having an experienced federal sentencing attorney make a compelling case for the lowest possible sentence can potentially save you years of imprisonment. It should be a top priority in fighting your federal criminal case.I hope you found this overview on federal defense sentencing lawyers informative and useful. Don‘t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions!




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