Federal fraud charges are always very serious. There can be long-lasting and damaging impact on a person’s criminal record should they be charged and subsequently convicted. Fraud committed against the government is a felony, and someone convicted of such a charge will face difficulties procuring work in the future. Contact a Virginia federal fraud lawyer as soon as possible to mitigate negative impact on your life following a fraud charge.
The important thing that people should know about the sentencing process is that it is a complicated one. It becomes even more complicated in cases where there are multiple counts in the indictment. It also becomes complicated when there are multiple defendants involved. It’s best in every single case that involves any federal charges to have an attorney on your side who knows exactly how to calculate sentencing guidelines, because those calculations are used to negotiate any kind of plea agreements with the government.
If the defense team is operating under a false set of assumptions with regard to what the expected sentencing guideline recommendation would be, you’re going to be operating at a severe disadvantage and you’re going to be in for a terribly bad surprise when you get to your sentencing hearing.
Generally, the sentencing process in federal court is a fair process. The sentencing guidelines were initiated based upon a perceived empirical inconsistency that was taking place across the country. For example, a person convicted of a fraud offense in Virginia might be sentenced very differently than a person convicted of a fraud offense in any other jurisdiction, just depending on who the judge was.
As a reaction to that, the federal government instituted sentencing guidelines, which were designed to create consistency across the nation for people convicted of similar offenses. To that extent, the federal sentencing guidelines are fair and the federal government typically does a good job of staying abreast of current issues with the guidelines to adjust them as needed.
As to flexibility, they have become more flexible over the years due to a reaction by the legal community as to the way that the guidelines were initially brought into play. At the outset, the guidelines were non-discretionary, which meant that a judge would have to have significant reason to depart either upward or downward from the guideline recommendations. Back then they were not recommendations; they were a strict range of sentences. Nowadays, judges have flexibility so that if the guidelines call for incarceration at a low level, a judge might be able to be convinced that incarceration is in fact not necessary to achieve justice.
Federal judges use, in addition to the guidelines, statutory sentencing factors. Each factor must be considered by a judge to determine what a fair sentence should be. Use of the federal sentencing guidelines is just one of the many factors that a judge needs to consider when pronouncing a fair and just sentence.