An Overview of Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that set a uniform sentencing policy for convicted Federal Defendants in the United States federal court system. This set of guidelines is the key to appropriately sentencing the accused for crimes committed.

Originally, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were deemed as mandatory, however, the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker 543 U.S. 220 (2005), found that the guidelines as originally constituted, violated the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. The solution chosen was excision of those provisions of the law establishing the guidelines that made them mandatory standards.

In the aftermath of Booker, the guidelines have become discretionary; meaning that judges may consider them, but are not required to adhere to their standards in sentencing decisions. Although they are no longer mandatory, Federal judges almost invariably use the guidelines as a starting point when sentencing federal criminal defendants.

Additionally, there is a specific law that indicates whether the judge is to increase or decrease the recommended sentence by more than a certain percentage. In this case, a written letter must identify the specific reasons why they are departing from the sentence.

It is imperative that the Federal Criminal Lawyer you hire for your criminal matter be familiar with all aspects of the law, as well as possessing intimate knowledge of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Without this knowledge, you could be relying on misinformation and misjudgment, which could hinder your decision to go to trial, plea, or co-operate with the government.

The Federal Guidelines determine sentences based primarily on two factors:

1.) The Conduct Associated With the Defense (the offense conduct, which produces the “offense level”) The conduct associated with the offense is set by the US Government, and can be found in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual.

2.) The Defendant’s Criminal History (the “criminal history category”) The criminal history category is compiled by associating a number to a specific prior offense, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony.

If the prior crimes were committed beyond a certain period of time, they may not be eligible to score against you.

The relationship between these two factors is shown on a Sentencing Table, found in the Guidelines Manual. For each pairing of offense level and criminal history category, the table specifies a sentencing range, in months, within which the court may sentence a defendant.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, contact the Petrus Law office today, to get the best professional experience for positive case results.

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