A Sentencing System Unlike Any Other
Federal sentencing is unlike any state’s system. The federal criminal justice system is not designed to be fair. It is designed to provide the minimum required due process required by the United States Constitution.
Nationally, over 95 percent of all federally charged cases result in a plea of guilty or no contest rather than proceeding to trial. In the USMD, 94.2 percent plead guilty. This can be attributed to any number of factors. These include the tendency for federal prosecutors tend to be involved proactively in every phase of the building of a case. Federal prosecutors are not required to provide much of the evidence against defendants to them until after a witness has testified at trial. Federal prosecutors also tend to be far more experienced than the average state prosecutor, and the federal government has seemingly unlimited resources to prosecute the cases it chooses to charge.
The Federal Sentencing Process
Before a client can be sentenced, he or she must either plead guilty or no contest or be convicted of at least one count at trial. A plea of no contest neither admits nor denies the government’s allegations. It is frequently called a “plea of convenience” because it allows clients to resolve cases without admitting guilt, which may be important in some circumstances, such as cases with possible civil law suits. However, pleas of no contest are relatively rare in the federal courts and in almost all circumstances will result in a higher sentence because the client does not demonstrate an acceptance of responsibility for his or her actions.
Pleading Guilty and Plea Agreements
The vast majority of federal criminal prosecutions are resolved via a plea agreement, i.e., the government and the client agree to the terms to which the client will plead guilty. However, clients and their families should be wary of the plea agreement process. The client’s plea agreement typically does not contain an agreement regarding a specific sentence. Rather, the agreement is a series of recommendations to the court about how the client should be sentenced. A plea agreement should only be accepted if it provides a definite, tangible benefit to the client, such as dismissing a count with a minimum mandatory sentence or recommending the court sentence the client under sentencing guidelines that can decrease the client’s sentence.
The first step in the formal sentencing process is the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR). The PSR is prepared by the United States Probation Office. In most federal cases, it is the PSR, and not the plea agreement, that dictates how the judge should sentence the client.
The PSR contains information on the client’s offense conduct, criminal history, physical and mental health, and family background. Most importantly, it contains recommendations on how the judge should apply the sentencing guidelines and which guidelines apply to the client.
If the defense believes there are inaccuracies in the facts alleged in the PSR or the probation officers application of the guidelines, the attorney must provide the probation officer with objections to the inaccuracies. The objections can be resolved prior to the sentencing hearing. Frequently, however, they are not. In these instances, the court must rule in the objections during the sentencing hearing. This may require complex legal argument or even the presentation of evidence by the government or the defense.
What Are The Sentencing Guidelines?
The United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) are a complex set of rules that the sentencing court must consider in determining a client’s sentence. These rules are not mandatory for the court to follow, but the court must consider them and must provide specific reasons for not doing so.
Determining the Guideline Range
Crimes are broken down into different sections in the Guidelines. For instance, the Guidelines for basic economic offenses such as theft and fraud are found in section 2B and drug offenses are found in section 2D.
Determining the guideline range can be an incredibly complicated task that depends upon the charges of conviction and whether the individual facts of the case may cause a sentence to go up or down – factors known as specific offense characteristics. These factors are different for every type of crime and must be carefully analyzed in order to get the most accurate picture of a client’s possible sentence. There may be as many as thirty to forty different specific offense characteristics for different types of crimes, so care must be taken to review them carefully in each case.
The Sentencing Table
In virtually all federal sentences, judges are required to calculate a defendant’s guideline range prior to sentencing them. The guideline range is based upon the federal sentencing table, which incorporates the guideline range and the defendant’s criminal history.
It is important to note that the sentencing table is not mandatory. The court can sentence a client above or below the guideline range if there is sufficient evidence to do so. There are many reasons to sentence a client below the guideline range. It is vitally important to provide the court with evidence of good character, work history, a challenging or troubled childhood, community involvement, and other factors to reduce a client’s sentence, as the court is required to consider these issues in determining a fair sentence.
Hire The Right Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
The stakes are very high in federal court, whether you are charged in Florida, New York, or Texas. You need a lawyer who has a deep understanding of the complexities of federal sentencing and is highly skilled at reducing your exposure to lengthy prison sentences, regardless of what crime you are accused of committing.
Before anyone decides to plead guilty, you should have an in-depth discussion with your attorney about the evidence against you, your likelihood of success in trial or with pre-trial motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence, and what your possible sentences could be. Based on the facts of your individual case, your background, any criminal history you may have, Jonathan Rose puts a multi-faceted plan into action that will give you the best chance of success-whether that means fighting and litigating the case through trial, developing a mult-faceted sentencing strategy, or developing such a sentencing strategy after a trial.
Jonathan Rose is highly skilled in pretrial motions, trials, and obtaining the best possible sentence if the client is convicted. He has a track record of preventing charges from being filed, obtaining the dismissal of charges, and obtaining sentences significantly below the recommended guideline range. You need experienced, skilled, and aggressive representation. Contact Jonathan Rose to discuss your federal investigation or charges.
 Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(B), a client and the government may come to an agreement for a specific sentence guideline range, or for the government not to object to the Defendant’s request for such a sentence. However, this must be approved by the Court as well as the United States Attorney.