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Federal Sentencing Advocacy

Northwest Indiana Federal Sentencing Attorney

Whether by plea agreement or jury trial, many federal cases result in some sort of conviction.  To make matters worse, the majority of federal crimes are felony offenses with a high guideline sentencing range and the possibility of a mandatory minimum prison sentence.   

Pleas for leniency loved ones vouching for your character, and hope are not enough.  If you find yourself charged with a federal crime, you need experienced federal sentencing advocacy. The federal sentencing attorney team at Stracci Law Group has decades of experience navigating federal sentencing law.

If you have questions about federal sentencing and related cases, please contact Stracci Law Group. We serve Crown Point [46307, 46308], Gary [46402, 46404, 46405, 46406], Hammond [46320, 46323, 46324, 46325, 46327, 46394], East Chicago [46312, 46320, 46327, 46394], Munster [46321], Merrillville [46410, 46411], Schererville [46307, 46319, 46373, 46375], Dyer [46311], Portage [46368, 46403], Valparaiso [46383, 46385], and other cities and towns across Northwest Indiana. 

Federal Sentencing Statutes and Guidelines

For years, federal judges were required to correctly calculate an offender’s federal sentencing guideline range and impose a prison sentence that fell within that range. That meant a variety of factors historically thought relevant to the imposition of a fair and just sentence, like an offender’s personal history and characteristics, could not be considered by the judge.

That is no longer true. Though federal judges must still calculate an offender’s guideline range and consider federal sentencing law, the guideline range is now only a recommendation.  That means federal judges have the freedom to consider an unlimited number of sentencing factors and impose a below-guideline sentence that accounts for an offender’s unique personal history and characteristics.  

However, the result is that federal sentencing is becoming increasingly complex and depends on a federal sentencing attorney’s legal experience, knowledge of federal statutes, sentencing guidelines, and related appellate decisions, and the ability to develop and present compelling sentencing arguments. More than ever, you need a federal sentencing expert to help you achieve the most promising results.

Calculating Your Guideline Sentence

The federal sentencing guidelines are a set of rules that dictate how sentences for all federal crimes are calculated. Calculating the recommended sentence under the federal guidelines is complicated. It requires intimate knowledge of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual, its application notes, its appendix, the history of every guideline amendment, and constant review of appellate court opinions that impact the manner in which each guideline should be applied. 

In the simplest form, the sentencing guidelines are a mathematical point system. Unlike in sports, the goal is to get the lowest possible score. The biggest roadblock to reaching that goal is the guideline requirement that sentences be based on “offense” and “relevant” conduct, meaning both the conduct that forms the actual offense and other conduct engaged in before, during, and after the actual offense. 

A federal sentencing guideline calculation begins by determining the “base offense level” for the offense of conviction, including all “offense” and “relevant” conduct.  Then, with few exceptions, the guidelines add points to the base offense level for “specific offense characteristics” common to the offense of conviction and “enhancements” common to all federal offenses.  The result is a single “total offense” level.  After that, a different calculation is used to determine criminal history points and assign a criminal history category.  Once the total offense level and criminal category have been calculated, the guideline range is found where both intersect on a “sentencing table”.

It is important to be aware that many sentencing guidelines are based on total harm, meaning fraud guidelines are increased by the amount of financial loss, drug guidelines are increased by the amount of drug weight, and firearm guidelines are increased by the amount of firearms.  The guideline's use of “offense” and “relevant” conduct to determine total harm often significantly and unjustly increases an offender’s guideline sentence.  

Other common specific offense characteristics and enhancements include the:

  • Number of victims;
  • Possession of a firearm or other weapon;
  • Reckless endangerment during flight;
  • Obstructing the administration of justice;
  • Using a minor to commit a crime;
  • Abuse of a position of trust or use of a special skill;
  • Use of sophisticated means to commit the offense; 
  • Other factors are based on both “offense” and “relevant” conduct.

But remember although the federal sentencing guidelines are still calculated, they are now only one of many factors federal judges consider at sentencing. The federal sentencing attorneys at Stracci Law Group are tireless in their commitment to obtaining the lowest possible sentence for all federal clients and take great pride in their federal sentencing advocacy.

Will Prior Convictions Impact My Sentence?

The short answer is yes. Prior misdemeanors or felony convictions, even relatively minor ones can impact your sentence in a number of ways. Prior convictions are scored and form the basis of an offender’s criminal history category and may ultimately increase an offender’s guideline sentencing range. The sentencing guidelines themselves recommend higher punishments for certain categories of offenders like repeat sex offenders, and other guideline enhancements like the one for Career Offenders automatically assign offenders with certain prior felony convictions to the highest possible criminal history category.  Some federal drug statutes impose mandatory minimum sentences on repeat drug offenders, while other statutory enhancements, like that for Armed Career Criminals, impose mandatory minimum sentences on certain firearm offenders.     

Career Offender

The Career Offender sentencing guideline enhancement recommends that anyone found guilty of a “crime of violence” or “controlled substance offense” who has two or more prior convictions for a felony “crime of violence” or a “controlled substance offense” be punished severely.  This is a guideline recommendation and federal judges, in their discretion, may impose a sentence that is below the Career Offender guideline recommendation.

Armed Career Criminal

The Armed Career Criminal Act is a statutory penalty that mandates a minimum 15-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. §922(g) (felon in possession of a firearm) who has three or more prior felony convictions for a “violent felony” or “serious drug offense”.

We Can Help in Different Situations

Federal White Collar Crimes

Stracci Law Group represents defendants charged with all federal white-collar crimes like mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, healthcare fraud, billing fraud, credit card fraud, bank fraud, mortgage fraud, identity theft, kickbacks, public corruption, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, tax fraud, tax evasion, fraud against the government, perjury, obstruction of justice, false statements, and all other federal theft and fraud crimes.

Federal Sex Crimes

We represent clients charged with all federal sex crimes, including solicitation of a minor for sex over the Internet; transportation of a minor across state lines for prostitution or sex; mailing, transporting, selling, or distributing obscene material; sex trafficking; sexual exploitation; production, distribution, possession, or receipt of child pornography; aggravated sexual abuse; abusive sexual contact; failing to register as a sex offender; and all other federal sex crimes.

Federal Drug Crimes

We represent clients from all walks of life charged with federal drug crimes like, including drug conspiracy, drug possession, possession with intent to deliver, dealing, distribution, trafficking, sales, manufacturing, RICO violations, criminal forfeiture, career offender enhancements, and all other federal drug crimes. 

Federal Gun Crimes

Stracci Law Group represents defendants charged with federal gun crimes, including straw purchase of firearms, felon in possession of a firearm, prohibited person in possession of a firearm, sale or transfer of a firearm to a prohibited person, possession or use of a firearm to further drug trafficking, possession or use of a firearm to commit a crime of violence, firearm trafficking, armed robberies, armed kidnappings, drug-related home invasions, armed career criminal enhancements, and all other federal gun crimes.

Why Choose Us for Federal Sentencing Representation

Some federal criminal defense attorneys treat sentencing advocacy as an afterthought and only begin thinking about it a few days before a client's actual sentencing hearing.  We do not.

The guidelines are the guidelines, and while it remains important to have a correctly calculated guideline range, once that is accomplished there is something that can be done to change the calculation.  But keep in mind the guidelines are no longer mandatory and sentencing no longer rests on the guideline calculation. That makes it absolutely critical to shift one’s focus to what can be done, and that is mitigation, more mitigation, and even more mitigation.

When we agree to defend a client charged with any federal offense, we immediately initiate a two-pronged attack.  We review discovery and evidence to exploit weaknesses and determine possible defenses but we also review discovery under the lens of any applicable guidelines and statutes.  We interview our client; research recent appellate court decisions, amendments to the guidelines, and scholarly articles; request and review education, medical, mental health, prison, employment, and other records; and sometimes retain an expert witness – all to determine and develop sentencing mitigation arguments befitting of each client’s unique personal history and background.

Some federal criminal defense attorneys choose not to file a sentencing memorandum on their client’s behalf prior to the sentencing hearing.  We always do.

With the reduced status of the sentencing guidelines, federal sentencing is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of defending a federal client.  When it comes to federal sentencing, the time to request a below guideline or mitigated sentence is before the hearing even begins.  We spend a significant amount of time writing thoughtful, descriptive, well-reasoned sentencing memorandums tailored to each client’s offense, guideline calculation, criminal history, personal history and characteristics, and any other circumstance that a federal judge needs to know prior to deciding the appropriate sentence.  We file our memorandums with the court well in advance of the actual hearing.  Waiting until the sentencing hearing to make complex factual and legal arguments is simply too little too late; it deprives federal judges of the ability to fully consider below guidelines and mitigation arguments below before pronouncing a federal sentence.

If you are charged with a federal criminal offense, odds are you will someday stand before a federal judge hoping for a below guideline or mitigated sentence.  When that day comes, you need a federal sentencing attorney to present well-developed arguments explaining why you deserve a below guideline or mitigated sentence. Contact us today.

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Our Criminal Defense Lawyers

The Team Behind You

Paul G. Stracci, the leader of our team, defended a murder case only 10 months out of law school and won a complete acquittal. He has since developed a powerful reputation as a devastatingly effective criminal trial attorney.

The Team Behind You

Alison L. Benjamin began her legal career years ago as a state court prosecutor. She is known to be a thoughtful and passionate litigator, and now focuses her practice on representing clients charged with federal crimes. Her tenacity makes her well-suited to resolve the complexities that arise in defending clients charged with federal crimes.

The Team Behind You

Maryam Afshar-Stewart, a former prosecutor, has risen rapidly as a criminal defense attorney thanks to her remarkable work ethic and undying commitment to the cause of justice for her clients.

The Team Behind You

Michael Woods is an experienced criminal trial attorney who has handled thousands of cases ranging from simple traffic tickets to complex homicides. A deputy prosecuting attorney for nearly 10 years, Michael knows what makes a case weak or strong, and can give clients an honest and realistic evaluation of their case.


"If you got legal issues I highly recommend this company. They got me out of a jam! With all charges dropped. And reasonably priced."
Cliftin Branch, Criminal Case
"I can actually say that Paul is a GREAT LAWYER!! Takes care of business. He got a very big felony dismissed that was hovering over my life for a couple of years and stopped me from doing many things freely, He also got a Dui Dismissed as well as a few other things! My record is now clean. Thank you Paul Stracci!"
Timmy ShellToe, Criminal Case
"I just want to reach out again to thank you. I’m so incredibly grateful for all your help and hard work. We both are!! My entire family is. I could never say thank you enough. In my head, I knew that he was innocent and never intended for any of this to happen. That he was only defending himself but the fact that they charged him and put him in jail was so terrifying. From the very first time I talked to you over the phone and then came in and met you both, I knew God helped me pick the right attorneys. My son was in the very best hands he could be in. Thank you for also putting up with my constant emailing, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted you to have all of the information I had. I will forever be grateful and I will also definitely be telling anyone I know that needs an attorney to come to your firm. I will tell everyone how amazing you gentlemen are for the rest of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!"
Timmy ShellToe, Criminal Case
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What happens at a federal sentencing hearing?

If you are convicted of a federal crime your sentencing hearing will be held no earlier than 70 days after that conviction. Between conviction and sentencing, a presentence report will be prepared to help the judge decide the appropriate sentence, and you will have the opportunity to review the report, make corrections, and file objections to uncorrected portions of the report. While the process unfolds, your attorney and the government attorney have the opportunity to file sentencing memorandums with the court that detail each side’s sentencing position. Because most federal sentencing work occurs on paper before the actual hearing, sentencing hearings don’t resemble those seen on television or in the movies. The actual sentencing hearing is a structured proceeding during which the judge hears and decides outstanding objections to the presentence report, rules on the correct guideline calculation, describes what has already been received and reviewed by the court, allows supplemental evidence and argument, hears from you personally (called an allocution), and then announces your sentence.

Will my previous criminal record play a role in my sentence?

Yes. Your criminal history or lack thereof plays a role in your sentence. Your prior convictions will determine your criminal history points, your criminal history category, and ultimately may increase your federal sentencing guideline range. Prior convictions also determine whether you are eligible to receive a safety valve reduction to your guideline calculation. More importantly, the type, number, and sentence imposed on your prior convictions will determine whether any sentencing enhancements should be applied to your sentence.

Can I get a sentence below the Sentencing Guideline range?

It depends. If you are convicted of an offense that has a mandatory minimum prison sentence, then outside of a few exceptions the judge will not be able to impose a sentence that falls below the minimum required by statute. If you are convicted of an offense with no statutory mandatory minimum sentence, then strong federal sentencing advocacy by a federal sentencing attorney will put you in the best possible position to seek a mitigated or what is called a “below guideline” sentence.

What is a Career Offender?

“Career Offender” is a guideline enhancement assigned to offenders who are being sentenced for a federal “crime of violence” or “controlled substance offense”. Its application depends on prior criminal history. It is different from being an “Armed Career Criminal” which is a statutory enhancement that imposes a mandatory minimum 15 year prison sentence on those convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm after three or more prior felony convictions for either a “violent felony” or “serious drug offense”.