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Sentencing Advocacy

Sentencing Advocacy

Why is federal sentencing advocacy important?

These days, federal sentencing advocacy is one of the most important aspects of federal practice.  In 2015, the nationwide federal conviction rate, including both trials and guilty pleas, across all of the United States federal district courts was 99.8%; in both the Northern and Southern Indiana federal districts, the conviction rate was 100%.  The chances are that if you are indicted for a federal offense, at some point, you will find yourself in front of a federal judge asking for leniency in your sentence.  When that time comes, you need a lawyer well versed in the federal sentencing guidelines and federal sentencing advocacy.

What are the federal sentencing guidelines?

The federal sentencing guidelines are a set of rules that dictate how recommended sentences for all federal crimes are calculated.  Calculating a recommended sentence under the guideline is a complex endeavor, but essentially the guidelines use a mathematical point system that starts off by assigning a point level (base offense level) to the offense of conviction and then continues to add points to the base offense level to reflect the conduct used to commit the offense (offense characteristics), nature or type of victim, obstruction of justice, and an offender’s particular role in the offense.  A separate calculation is used to assess an offender’s criminal history (criminal history points).  Once the total offense and criminal history points are calculated, a sentencing table is used to determine the recommended sentence.

For years, federal judges had to impose a sentence that comported with guidelines.  That is no longer true, and although the sentencing guidelines are still calculated - the calculation is now only a recommendation and only one of many factors a judge must consider when imposing a federal sentence.  Other federal sentencing factors are listed in 18 U.S.C. §3553 and include the:

1. nature and circumstances of the offense and history and characteristics of the offender;

2. need for the sentence imposed to

     (A)   reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, and provide just punishment for the offense;

     (B)   afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct;

     (C)   protect the public from further crimes of the defendant; and

     (D)   provide needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner;

3. kinds of sentences available;

4. kinds of sentence and sentencing range set forth in the sentencing guidelines;

5. pertinent policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission;

6. need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct; and

7. need to provide restitution to any victims of the offense.

Could having prior violent or controlled substance convictions impact my sentence?

The short answer is . . . yes.  Various sentencing guideline and statutory enhancements severely impact many federal sentences.  The Career Offender (CO) sentencing guideline automatically places certain offenders in the highest possible criminal history category and thus increases the applicable recommended guideline sentence; and by statute, offenders who are Armed Career Criminals (ACC) cannot be sentenced to less than 15 years in prison.  While CO and ACC are frequently used to increase offender sentences, prior convictions may affect a federal sentence in other ways, For instance, the sentencing guidelines recommend greater punishments for repeat sex offenders, and drug statutes often mandate minimum sentences for repeat drug offenders.  

Career Offender (CO).  The Career Offender sentencing guideline enhancement recommends that any offender found guilty of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense, no matter by plea or trial, who has at least two prior convictions for either a “crime of violence” or a controlled substance offense in their criminal history, be sentenced at higher sentencing guideline and criminal history levels.  This enhancement is a guideline, not a statutory, recommendation and federal judges, in their discretion, may depart and impose a sentence that is below the CO guideline recommendation.

Armed Career Criminal (ACA).  The Armed Career Criminal Act, on the other hand, is a statutory enhancement that mandates a minimum prison sentence of 15 years for certain offenders convicted of illegally possessing firearms and/or ammunition.

Other Possible Enhancements.  Under 18 U.S.C. §3559(c)(1) a person may be sentenced to mandatory life in prison if:

(A) the person has been convicted (and those convictions have become final) on separate prior occasions in a court of the United States or of a State of—  

     (i)  two or more serious violent felonies; or

     (ii) one or more serious violent felonies and one or more serious drug offenses; and

(B) each serious violent felony or serious drug offense used as a basis for sentencing under this subsection, other than the first, was committed after the defendant’s conviction of the preceding serious violent felony or serious drug offense.

Why hire Stracci Law Group?

In 2015, including both guilty pleas and trials, the nationwide conviction rate across all United States federal district courts was 99.8%.  In Indiana federal courts, both the Northern and the Southern Districts of Indiana shared a 100% conviction rate.  When your future is at stake, you need aggressive and skilled sentencing advocacy - a team of attorneys who will fight for you in court when all odds are stacked against you.  Call Stracci Law Group today to schedule a time to meet with us, personally discuss your situation, and learn more about our services, knowledge, and federal courtroom experience.

Schedule a Free Consultation about your Federal Sentencing Guideline, Career Offender, and Armed Career Criminal Criminal Investigation or Case!

We want you to be confident that Stracci Law Group is the best choice for you.  We offer free, comprehensive, and confidential consultations.  Call (219) 525-1000 today to schedule a time to meet with us.

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