How does federal criminal sentencing work?
If you are facing a criminal conviction in a federal court, you need to understand how the sentencing process works. The law may outline sentencing guidelines, but the judge in your case has some ability to alter them.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the court will consider various factors when determining your sentence.
The basic sentencing guidelines will depend on the severity of your crime. Serious offenses will have much harsher sentencing suggestions than less serious ones. The judge will get a basic starting point based on severity and then use other factors to come to a conclusion about what sentence to hand down.
Adjustments to the base sentence may come if there are other circumstances in your case. They could either increase or decrease the guideline. The court will also consider whether or not you admitted guilt and accepted responsibility for your actions. It is possible to have a nice reduction if you take responsibility for the crime.
The court also looks into your criminal history. If you have been in trouble before, it could increase your sentence. There are also aggravating circumstances that could come into play. These are things that increase the severity of the crime.
The judge has room to completely adjust your sentence based on your personal situation. He or she will have to issue written reasoning for changing the base sentencing guideline, so you will know the reason why you received more or less of a punishment than the law specifically states you could receive for the crime of which the court convicted you.