If you get convicted in federal court on a federal criminal charge, then the sentencing process will be much more stringent and structured than it would have been if the charge had been for a state crime and heard in a state court. This is due in large part to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which play a huge role in limiting the discretion of a federal judge when it comes to the question of sentencing. As a result, the sentence that comes with a conviction for a federal crime like a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) can be easier to determine, but also much more difficult to negotiate or argue against.
However, there are still ways to successfully argue that you should not be sentenced as harshly as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines say you should be. While this is possible, the process is complex, and often requires a nuanced pleading procedure that only an experienced federal criminal defense attorney can follow.
The Sentencing Guidelines Can Be Avoided in Unusual Cases
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a federal law that set out appropriate sentences for specific federal crimes. However, there has been confusion as to whether the Guidelines are mandatory or merely advisory. The law was made to prevent widely differing sentences from being imposed for similar federal crimes. However, the stringency of the Guidelines risked infringing on the ability of judges to impose individualized sentences for crimes that are inherently unique.
In an attempt to avoid this, the Guidelines laid out acceptable reasons for a federal judge to depart from the Guidelines and impose a sentence based on the unique circumstances of the case.
Departures from the Guidelines are Rare
When a federal judge decides to issue a sentence that is outside of the range that the Sentencing Guidelines lays out for a particular conviction, it is called a “departure.” However, federal judges can only depart from the Guidelines if they support the departure with one of the acceptable reasons from the Guidelines. These acceptable reasons for departing from the Guidelines are narrow, and if a judge does not adequately support his or her reason for departing from the Guidelines, it is likely to be overturned on appeal, something that no judge wants.
As a result, judges almost always play it safe and impose a sentence that lies within the range provided by the Guidelines. Convincing them to stick their neck out and take on the extra responsibility of justifying a departure from the Guidelines is difficult.
The Federal Criminal Law Center Has a Reputation for Getting Judges to Depart from the Guidelines
Despite the difficulty in doing so, the Federal Criminal Law Center has a track record of successes in convincing judges to depart from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and impose sentences under the range that the Guidelines set out. Our ability to persuade judges that you do not deserve the punishment that the Guidelines list has helped countless clients in the past avoid an overly harsh sentence. Contact the Federal Criminal Law Center online for help getting a sentencing departure if you have been convicted of a federal crime.