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Understanding the federal sentencing guidelines

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2022 | Criminal Law

Being charged with a federal crime is a serious matter. There are many differences between the state and federal criminal systems, one of which is the sentencing guidelines. Most Alabama residents have probably heard of the federal sentencing guidelines, but may be unaware of what they are, or what they could mean in the context of a federal criminal charge.

The purpose of the federal sentencing guidelines is to present a consistent set of rules for individuals convicted of a federal crime. The guidelines are based on factors such as the harm caused by the defendant’s actions and the guilt of the defendant.

Judges are not bound by the federal sentencing guidelines

It may be surprising to learn that judges are not required to follow the federal sentencing guidelines but must only consider them when imposing a sentence. This avoids overly harsh sentences that are based on facts the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judges may not depart from the guidelines without giving a reason for doing so. In these situations, a judge must state which factors were relied on to justify the sentence, whether it is an increased sentence or decreased sentence.

Always explore possible defenses

There may be defenses available to a federal criminal charge, which can result in a dismissal, and the federal sentencing guidelines will never come into play. Federal prosecutors and investigators are required to abide by numerous rules and requirements and failing to follow one of these can be enough to get a case thrown out. Prosecutors must also prove their case in court, and there are many potential ways to attack the evidence presented.

If you are charged with a federal crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. You have rights under the law, and a federal criminal conviction can result in major fines and a lengthy jail sentence, in addition to the loss of your good name and reputation. An attorney who is familiar with the federal criminal justice system can provide an aggressive representation against federal criminal charges.