What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and how do they work?

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are guidelines that judges consider when determining an appropriate sentence for someone who has been convicted of a federal crime. The Guidelines use a combination of the severity of the crime and a person’s criminal history to calculate a suggested sentencing range.

In the past, federal judges were usually required to sentence a person somewhere within the range calculated by the Guidelines. Fortunately, over a decade ago, the Supreme Court held that the Guidelines are no longer mandatory. A federal judge now has the discretion to go below or above the guidelines if the judge thinks the guidelines are not reasonable in a particular case.

Our firm has helped hundreds of clients obtain the lowest possible sentence in federal court. Although we are usually able to obtain the best results when we are involved in a case from the beginning, we have been able to step into a case after trial or a plea to help someone get a sentence that is significantly lower than the guideline range, and much better than their first lawyer told them to expect. We will work with the U.S. Probation Office to make sure the advisory sentencing guidelines are calculated in a way that benefits our client. We will then prepare for the sentencing hearing by finding witnesses and other evidence to support a departure or variance from the guideline range so that our client can receive the lowest possible sentence. At the sentencing hearing, we spend a lot of time educating the judge about our client’s background, family, work history and community involvement to show the judge that our client deserves a sentence that is below the Guideline range.

We have obtained probation for many of our clients in federal court, and have convinced judges to impose other alternatives to prison in the right case. We know that the Guidelines are incredibly important, but they are only the starting point to a fair and reasonable sentence.

In the video above, Page Pate helps explain the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and how they might apply to a particular case. He also shows how we help our clients get a sentence that is substantially lower than the advisory guideline range in many cases.