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4 Factors That Affect Federal Sentencing

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

March 4, 2022

After being found guilty of a federal crime, you’ll move on to the sentencing phase. During this phase, the judge will determine an appropriate sentence for the defendant. There are many factors that come into play in this decision.

1. The Severity of the Crime

Not all federal crimes are equal in severity. If the offender was found guilty of a violent crime, like murder, they will likely face more extreme penalties. Nonviolent crimes, like fraud, are less severe.

2. The Defendant’s History

One of the biggest red flags for judges is if the defendant has a prior criminal record. This is especially true if the past offenses are of high severity. When the judge sees prior convictions, they will assume that the defendant is a habitual offender with a high likelihood of committing further crimes. This will make them more likely to impose a harsh sentence in order to deter the offender from committing crimes in the future or keep them out of the community.

3. Mandatory Minimums

In a lot of federal cases, sentencing is a bit out of the judge’s hands. This is because of mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimums are the minimum amount of time incarcerated required for specific crimes. For example: producing child pornography has a mandatory 15-year sentence. The judge cannot go below that number, but they may add to it.

There are some exceptions to the mandatory minimum rule. Safety valve exemptions allow some first-time offenders to receive lower than the mandatory minimum. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.

4. The Purpose of the Sentence

In a broader sense, the court will determine what the purpose of sentencing the offender is.

Is the goal:

  • Deterrence?
  • Punishment?
  • Rehabilitation?

The answer to this question will be a factor in sentencing. If the crime was particularly heinous, the offender may receive a severe sentence as a way to deter others from committing similar crimes. If the offender suffered from drug addiction and was convicted of a drug crime, they may be offered treatment through drug court as opposed to federal prison.

Fort Lauderdale Federal Defense

Hager & Schwartz, P.A. is the team you want by your side to fight federal charges. The potential sentences for these crimes are substantial, and you want to do everything in your power to avoid a conviction. Our defense attorneys have helped numerous clients, and know the ins and outs of the federal court system. Get started with us today: (954) 840-8713.