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Mar 14, 2012

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Today’s topic of discussion is a very brief overview of the sentencing guidelines and how they apply to your federal criminal case. Now, when you’ve been charged with a federal crime, oftentimes the federal government has decided to take that case because they think they can prove it very easily. The vast majority of all federal cases in the district of Maine are either guilty pleas or people that have been found guilty following a trial. Regardless of how the case is resolved, if you are found guilty, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines will play an important role in the final punishment handed down by the judge.

Now, there has been recent case law over the past few years that say that the sentencing guidelines are just that, they are advisory, they are guidelines, they are not mandates. However, the court must take the sentencing guidelines into consideration when determining an appropriate sentence in your case. So for example, based upon your criminal record, you’ll be assigned a criminal history level and based on the nature of the offense, an offense level. What happens then is when you check the chart and you have your offense level, perhaps you’re in an offense level of 22 based on X amount of kilograms of marijuana, and you have a criminal history category of three, perhaps when those two intersect you may have a sentencing guideline of 120 to 150 months. The judge will be then free to sentence you anywhere within that 120 to the 150-month range. However, there are reasons to go outside of the guidelines and depart downwards or upwards and the judge must carefully lay out the reasons for the departure from the guidelines.

So again, while these cases that involve the sentencing guidelines are advisory, the judges will generally apply those guidelines in their sentences and will only depart up or down from those guidelines with good reason. These are incredibly complex cases to defend regardless of the charge when you are in the Federal system. The law is constantly changing and your attorney really needs to understand the law and how it applies to your case as well as the relevant defenses. If you have been charged with a Federal criminal offense, whether it be a drug trafficking charge, a possession of child pornography charge, or a fraud charge or any other criminal charge, please pick up the phone, call my office, I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you.

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