skip to Main Content
Sentencing Guidelines In The Federal System

Sentencing Guidelines in the Federal System

In the United States, if someone receives a federal criminal conviction, the court will use the federal sentencing guidelines to assist in its determination of punishment. The purpose of the federal sentencing guidelines is to create uniform penalties for similar crimes committed under similar circumstances.

To achieve this goal, judges need a formula to calculate a person’s sentence. This is where federal sentencing guidelines come into play. In determining a person’s recommended sentence or fine, the table takes into account:

  • The severity of the crime
  • The criminal history of the convicted person

The Severity of the Crime

Federal crimes have an offense level associated with them. The less serious the crime, the lower its offense level. However, the more serious the crime, the higher the offense level, meaning the prison sentence suggestion will increase. For example, if someone is convicted of a level one offense, the sentencing table suggests a prison sentence of six months or less. On the other hand, if someone is convicted of a level 15 offense, the sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of one and a half years to a little over four years.

Criminal History of the Convicted Person

In addition to the offense level, the sentencing guidelines consider the person’s criminal history. The reasoning behind this is that repeat offenders should get longer sentences than people who do not have a criminal history. Therefore, the guidelines add points for every prior conviction to factor criminal history into the sentencing determination. The system for applying points for convictions is complex, but here are a couple of examples:

  • The judge should assign one point for every conviction resulting in a sentence of fewer than 60 days.
  • The judge should assign two points for every conviction resulting in a prison sentence between 60 days and 13 months.

They can then add all the points to determine which of the six criminal history categories the convicted person falls into.

Using the Offense Levels and Criminal History Categories for Sentencing

Once the court determines the convicted’s offense level and criminal history category, it will use the table to figure out the sentencing range. For example, if someone commits a level five offense with a criminal history category of five, they should receive a sentence of four to ten months. In contrast, if someone commits a level ten offense with a criminal history category of one, their sentence under the guidelines is six to 12 months.

It is important to note that while it’s common for judges to use the sentencing guidelines, they are not required to. If you or someone you know is charged with or has been convicted of a federal crime, having an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is vital. The attorneys of Strickland, Diviney, and Segura deeply understand the federal criminal system, allowing us to make a difference in the outcome of your case.

To discuss your legal options and get started on building a strong defense, contact us at (540) 982-7787.

Back To Top