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 , Merrillville [46410, 46411], Schererville [46307, 46319, 46373, 46375], Dyer , 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.
But 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 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 guidelines 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 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.
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 guideline and mitigation arguments 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.