Important Changes To Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Upon being arrested a criminal defendant’s most pressing concern is the range of punishment. Knowing what to expect by way of fines and possible incarceration helps to prepare you for what lies ahead and can also help aid you when deciding on a defense strategy. When the offense is in federal court rather than state court the Judge is required to adhere to strict sentencing guidelines. Over the years these guidelines have changed. This Fall, criminal defendants in federal matters will see another change. It is important to know what’s in store for the future, even if your case is not a federal case. This is because some prosecutors in state court try to draw parallels to these rules, so understanding the rationale behind them is key to understanding how the criminal judicial system works.

The United States Sentencing Commission has approved the following changes, to be effective November 1, 2015:

  • Clarification on who is considered a “conspirator” in a conspiracy case. This change is aimed at clarifying who can be held accountable, and for what. The hope is that one single defendant will not be made to answer for all the charges in a case, but only those for which evidence points to their involvement.
  • For financial crimes, the punishment can be adjusted downwardly depending on the amount in controversy. The financial harm suffered in a money crime (commonly thought of as white collar crimes) has been adjusted to take into account inflation.

The Commission hopes these changes will provide fair punishment, and hopefully decrease the amount of incarcerated individuals. An interesting fact is that the United States jails a higher percent of its population than do most other countries in the world. This statistic is truly amazing, and should give prosecutors pause when pushing for jail time. Our goal is to reach results that are appropriate for the case. When a punishment is out of line with the charge, we aggressively pursue alternative sentences.

If you have questions about how criminal sentencing works, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. Your first visit is a free consultation and we work with you to reach results that fit your needs.

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