Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney

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What are federal sentencing guidelines?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Federal sentencing guidelines serve as a rulebook for courts. They help judges decide about sentencing.

For example, for a specific crime, sentencing guidelines may provide a range of prison time, which helps the judge know what typical punishments are.

Federal laws

  • Federal laws apply to the entire United States.
  • Breaking a federal law is more serious than breaking a state law.

Sentencing guidelines

Sentencing guidelines provide courts with instructions. These instructions help judges decide the length of a convicted person’s sentence.

These guidelines achieve fairness in the punishments of people in different places who get similar punishments for similar crimes.

How courts use sentencing guidelines

The guidelines use a point system that helps judges. Using this points system, judges can assign a certain number of points to a specific crime.

  • The more severe the crime, the more points the person will get.
  • The higher the number of points, the more severe the punishment.
  • Based on the severity of the crime, the guidelines categorize crimes into different levels.
  • Higher levels mean longer sentences.
  • If the person convicted has a criminal history, they may receive additional points.

What else is in the guidelines?

The guidelines provide valuable information for judges to consider, such as details about the charges, the seriousness of the harm and how punishment can be different depending on the convicted person’s role in the crime.

However, judges have the authority to deviate from the federal sentencing guidelines if they believe it is appropriate in a specific case.

The importance of these guidelines

These guidelines are important because they influence how long someone might spend in prison and the fines they will have to pay, and they allow defense lawyers to give their clients information about the best- and worst-case scenarios.

Understanding the legal system is essential because it affects everyone. The more you know, the better you can navigate the world around you, including legal matters, if you ever run into one.

Remember that federal sentencing guidelines are there to guide courts, but each case is unique, and judges must employ their judgment when deciding on consequences for breaking federal laws.