Federal Sentencing Considerations
If convicted of a federal crime, either after trial or by admitting guilt, the court will eventually get to the business of imposing sentence. Federal judges must consider several bodies of information before adjudging a criminal defendant’s sentence. These items include the statutory minimum and maximum punishments for the convicted crime(s), the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, sentencing recommendations and arguments advanced by counsel, the defendant’s statement, if any, and the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553 (a).
The factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553 (a) are as follows:
- (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant,
- (2) the need for the sentence imposed,
- (3) the kinds of sentences available,
- (4) the kinds of sentence and sentencing range,
- (5) any pertinent policy statement,
- (6) the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disputes among defendants with similar records, and
- (7) the need to provide restitution to any victims
The first factor is influenced by the defendant’s actions and character.
For the second factor, the court looks to the need for the criminal sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to deter criminal conduct, to protect the public from further crimes by the defendant, and to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment.
The third factor considers the types of sentences available for the defendant which may include probation, fines, and incarceration.
The fourth factor refers to the applicable, advisory sentencing range recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The fifth factor refers to any potential official policy statement(s) by the U.S. Sentencing Commission regarding the crime at issue, or applicable U.S. Sentencing Guidelines provisions, whether it relate to the underlying crime or an upward or downward adjustment in the guidelines calculation based on mitigating or aggravating facts regarding the offense, the defendant’s role in the offense, criminal history, and more.
The sixth factor requires courts to sentence similarly situated defendants fairly and equally.
The seventh and final factor, where applicable, relates to compensating victims of crime for sustained economic or financial loss.
Sentencing advocacy requires experienced criminal defense counsel who understand the interplay of the many inputs that federal sentencing judges balance and consider before adjudging sentences. Determining a criminal defense is often the most difficult task for judges.
There is no specific formula for arriving at a precise sentence. Rather, determining an appropriate sentence requires careful and fair consideration of all inputs received by the court related to sentencing, and balancing them to ensure that the sentence imposed is reasonable, but not greater than necessary to achieve the sentencing factors outlined by Congress in 18 U.S.C. § 3553 (a).
If you have been charged with a federal crime or have questions or concerns about federal sentencing, contact the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, Inc. for a free consultation at (401) 351-5100.