The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were established in the early 1980’s and they were designed to make sentencing more uniform throughout the country. At that time, a kilo of cocaine in Miami was not considered as serious as a kilo of cocaine in Cleveland. There was such a disparity in sentencing that the federal government established these Guidelines to enable judges to fairly sentence individuals between certain ranges.
At some point, the US Supreme Court ruled that the law cannot tell judges how to sentence, they can only give them Guidelines. Judges now follow these Guidelines which are merely strong suggestions because judges have the discretion to go outside of the guidelines if they find justifiable reasons to do so.
Sentencing Guidelines are a guide, but in the majority of cases, the Federal Court Judges do sentence within the Sentencing Guidelines. A Clearwater federal offense sentencing lawyer can help you better understand the process of sentencing in relation to your case. For more information, contact a skilled federal criminal attorney as soon as possible.
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Federal Offenses
Clearwater federal offense sentencing lawyers know that there are mandatory minimums for sex offenses, child pornography, and for certain drug offenses; there is a whole slew of minimum mandatories. Sometimes those minimum mandatories are more than what the Sentencing Guideline would suggest, and sometimes minimum mandatory is actually less than the Sentencing Guideline.
A judge will sentence more than the mandatory minimum if the Sentencing Guideline is more. A judge cannot sentence to less than the mandatory minimum unless there is a safe harbor provision. If an individual qualifies for that safe harbor and was never convicted of a crime, the present case against them was not violent, and if they were a minor player. In these specific set of circumstances, the judges can go below the sentencing guideline beyond minimum mandatory, but that happens very rarely.
Understanding Political Impact of a Minimum Sentence
There are several reasons why the federal government determined that mandatory minimum sentences and Sentencing Guidelines are needed for federal offense sentencing hearings. Minimums are political. Meaning, in order to look tough on crime, they established this minimum mandatory and it was Congress that really passed these minimum mandatories. Congressmen want to appear tough on crime when they go back home to their constituents. Being tough on crime is a very popular mantra when a person is running for office. Implementing a mandatory minimum is a way of coaxing someone into pleading guilty for something.
What Happens if Someone Pleas Not Guilty?
Clearwater federal offense sentencing lawyers have seen prosecutors use mandatory minimums to coax a plea for those who do not enter a guilty plea. If someone does not plead guilty to this charge, the prosecutors are going to charge them with something that has a minimum mandatory which means that they can go to prison for 10 or 20 years, which will usually invoke a plea. The Department of Justice, by asking Congress for minimum mandatories, is a way of extra campaigning as the public will see that the Department of Justice is tough on crime.
What are Sentencing Zones?
There actually are zones in the Sentencing Guidelines, but those zones are only calculated after the Guideline score is calculated. Each crime is assigned a level in the Sentencing Guidelines which can be a level 30 or level 28; various levels correspond.
The charged person is assigned a criminal history score depending on their prior convictions. The Sentencing Guideline can be any range of 50 months to 60 months or 72 months to 38 months. Once they get into that range, then the zones become relevant.
If it is a very low range, it will allow for probation. Some zones allow for a split sentence of a number of months on house arrest and a number of months in jail, and some zones are only allowed for prison sentences. For more information on how a sentencing zone can impact your case, contact a Clearwater federal offense sentencing lawyer.