How Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work?

 Posted on July 18, 2019 in Criminal Defense

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyer,If you have been charged with a federal crime such as healthcare fraud or money laundering, you will need to understand how the Federal Sentencing Guidelines work. These guidelines are just that - they are guidelines to help judges decide on appropriate sentences. They are not hard and fast rules.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are released in a publication every year. Although judges are not required to follow these guidelines, they are required to at least consider them. If a federal judge decides to deviate from these guidelines, they must provide a clear and full explanation of their reason for doing so. Below is a brief explanation of how these guidelines work.

What Are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, individuals convicted of a federal crime are assigned to one of 43 offense levels. The level they are assigned will depend on the severity of the crime. Offenses considered to be on a higher level have more serious consequences. For example, money laundering may have an offense level of 20, while first-degree murder will have an offense level of 43.

The guidelines also require defendants to be categorized into one of six groups, based on their past criminal history. Individuals that have longer criminal histories will also receive longer sentences than first offenders. The sentences take into consideration this category, as well as the offense level of the crime committed.

There are certain factors that can increase or decrease a sentence. For example, if a defendant played a very minor role in the crime, judges can decrease their offense level by four. If on the other hand, a defendant attempted to obstruct justice so as not to be found guilty of the crime, the offense level can increase by two.

When Defendants Accept Responsibility

When a defendant wishes to accept responsibility for the crime and they plead guilty, this can also have an effect on their sentencing. When a judge understands that a defendant is remorseful, and accepts responsibility, the judge can decrease the offense level by two. Judges will also take other factors into consideration, such as if the defendant has paid restitution to the victim of the crime.

In cases when an offense level is 16 or higher, the prosecution can enter a motion detailing the fact that an early guilty plea saved the prosecution and the court valuable resources. When this is the case, a judge may decrease the offense level by one.

Charged with a Federal Crime? Contact an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Although the basics of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are above, they are much more complex than that. Aggravating or mitigating factors are sometimes involved in sentencing, and other factors also often come into play. The best case scenario for those accused of a federal crime though is to never get to sentencing and have their charges dropped, or a final judgment issued in their favor. A skilled Chicago criminal defense lawyer can help obtain this positive outcome. If you have been charged with a federal crime, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today at 312-629-0669. We will build you a strong defense that can have your charges reduced or dropped altogether. We also offer free consultations so we can review your case at no charge to you. Call now or fill out our online form to schedule yours.


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