The penalties someone faces for federal offenses range from probation only to life imprisonment. Every specific offense has a statutory range. Some have mandatory minimums, but regardless, the long-term implications are severe because if someone is tried and found guilty of a felony in federal court, they are a convicted felon for the rest of their life. The convicted felon loses certain civil liberties such as the right to bear arms, and the right to vote. When a person is convicted of a crime, the judge has to sentence that person for that conviction. A sentencing issue only comes up after a person has been convicted.
If someone believes there was an issue with their sentencing procedure, they should get in contact with a Virginia federal criminal lawyer and discuss the details of their case before deciding whether or not to proceed.
The federal courts employ the Federal Sentencing Guidelines which are similar in some ways to the Virginia Sentencing Guidelines. The sentencing guidelines in the federal system are computed by a probation officer assigned to the case after the conviction. They conduct a lengthy process called the presentence investigation report, which includes their version of the sentencing guidelines.
Once the sentencing guidelines are computed by the probation officer, each party, the government and someone’s Virginia federal criminal defense team have an opportunity to object to any portion of the probation officer’s calculations. They can do so in writing ahead of the sentencing hearing. That process is unique to federal court and is not something that’s employed in the Virginia courts.
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are essentially a worksheet that assigns points to various factors involved in the person’s condition. The factors begin with an examination of the person’s conviction; that conviction carries a certain number of points.
Once that is established, the next thing they look for are other variables that might have taken place during or after the commission of the crime. One example is the lost financial amount. In federal court, for any type of financial related crime, the amount of money that’s involved affects the sentencing guidelines on a sliding scale. A small amount of money results in a small number of points; a large amount of money results in a larger amount of points.
Every point that is calculated results in what is called the offense level. The offense level is used to calculate a sentencing recommendation. The sentencing recommendation also factors in a person’s criminal history. If a person has a low criminal history, their sentence is lower. If a person has a significant criminal history, their sentence is higher.
The guidelines initially create an offense level based on the charge for which the person was convicted and then consider any other variable that weighs into it. They look at the criminal history category and the table that was created by the sentencing commission. The person is sentenced based on where on the table they match up the offense level with the criminal history category. By way of example, if a person has an offense level of twenty and a criminal history category of one, then their sentencing recommendation is thirty-three to forty-one months. If that same person has a criminal history category of three, their sentence would jump to a recommendation of forty-one to fifty-one months.
Someone who is still unclear about the guidelines for federal sentencing will benefit from getting in contact with a Virginia federal criminal defense lawyer to discuss their case.