Federal Sentencing

Federal Sentencing

Are you one of the many people in this country who has been affected by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines? The Guidelines were designed to bring clarity to criminal sentencing, but instead have often produced wildly different sentences for minutely different crimes. If you face a lengthy prison sentence because of the Guidelines, you will need a criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were created by the United States Sentencing Commission as a result of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. The Guidelines were meant to produce fairness in sentencing, eliminate unrestricted judicial discretion, create more certainty, and punish certain crimes (such as white collar crimes) more severely. They determine a sentence by looking at both the specific crime committed and the defendant’s criminal history. All this has led to the creation of a complex sentencing table:

  • Levels: The sentencing table has 43 levels. The level of each crime can be found in Chapter 2 of the Guidelines Manual.
  • Zones: Levels are divided into Zones A through D. Levels 1 through 8 are in Zone A, while 28 through 43 are in Zone D. Each zone determines the minimum and maximum length of the sentence.
  • Criminal History: The table then divides criminal history into six categories. Those with zero “points” are in Category I, while those with 13 or more points are in Category VI. Points are based on the number of previous criminal sentences and their length.

From this table, your sentence is determined. Although United States v. Booker (2005) held that the Guidelines should be advisory, not mandatory, they still hold tremendous influence in federal court. The Guidelines have also met with a lot of criticism. Until recently, many critics pointed to the 100: 1 ratio between penalties for those with caught with the same drug: crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. Others argue that the Guidelines do not permit federal judges to weigh individual circumstances, reducing each judge to little more than a calculator.

In addition to being grossly unfair, one of the worst flaws of the Guidelines is that they are hopelessly confusing. Including nearly every possible crime, the Guidelines Manual is more than 1,700 pages long. If you live in Texas and face a federal sentence using the Guidelines, don’t try to understand them on your own. Find an experienced federal criminal defense attorney with a firm grasp of the Guidelines who can work the system for you. A skilled attorney can get your charges reduced before they even reach the sentencing stage. Call 1-432-687-5157 today.