Federal Crimes – Sentencing

Federal Sentencing

Being sentenced to jail in federal crime cases are determined by two things: (1) the statute of conviction, which sets the maximum penalty in the form of a fine or imprisonment; and (2) the federal crime sentencing guidelines.

The federal crime sentencing guidelines are a series of sentencing rules established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. (See www.ussc.gov for more information.)

Being sentenced to jail has differnet guidelines that rely upon a grid system known as the sentencing table . Each grid contains a range of custodial time (in months) which the judge is authorized to impose. Along the top axis are 6 criminal history categories.

A person’s criminal history category is based upon the nature of his prior record. Some offenses count more then others. Some do not count at all based upon either the person’s age or the nature of the offense. Points can be added if the person was on probation or parole when he committed the federal offense or if he was recently released from custody when he committed the federal offense. The lowest category, I, is for people with no record, the highest is VI, for people with lengthy records. The custody time increases along with the severity of your history.

Along the left side of the table is a listing of the offense levels. Each federal crime is assigned a point value. This value can be adjusted upwards or downwards based upon certain characteristics of the offense, the defendant’s behavior, the victim’s role and relationship to the defendant, whether the defendant played aggravating or mitigating role in the offense, and whether the defendant accepted responsibility.

Once the court has calculated the defendant’s adjusted offense level and his or her criminal history category, a presumptive sentence range is determined. At that point, the judge is authorized to depart upwards or downwards from the presumptive range if he or she feels there are circumstances about the defendant or the crime that were not adequately considered by the guidelines. This decision whether or not to depart is subject to the court’s discretion and cannot be reviewed on appeal, although the actual calculation for the presumptive guidelines range can be appealed. Resources for federal crimes.

Post Sentencing

At that point, the defendant will ultimately be ordered to serve any custodial time ordered, with credit for any time served to date. There is no parole in the federal system, but if a person behaves well in custody, he or she can receive 15% credit for every year he is to serve. If the defendant is a citizen, he or she will spend the last 6 months in a halfway house. He or she will then be released, but will be on supervised release for a period of time set by the sentencing judge.

Supervised release is like probation, in that if you violate the terms (including committing a new offense) you can be returned to custody for up to the maximum of the term of supervised release. Unlike a sentence, you do not get any credit for the time you previously spent in custody. If you have been sentenced to jail, you should consult with an attorney in your area.

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