What Arizona Residents Need to Know About Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Defendant in CourtThis if the next post in my series on things Phoenix, Arizona residents should know when facing charges in Federal Court. My last post explained the Federal Grand Jury process in criminal cases. It is important to understand the Grand Jury process as it is how a case begins. In this post I will discuss another important topic – application of the federal sentencing guidelines. It cannot be stressed enough that you should contact a criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged in the Federal District of Arizona.

All federal crimes carry a minimum and maximum penalty. Sometimes the minimum allowable sentence is probationary. That means a person may serve minimal or no time in jail and be released on supervision to the probation department. Other crimes carry minimum prison sentences and federal judges do not have the authority to deviate below the minimum prescribed punishment for a given offense. This is why consulting an attorney is so important. A lawyer may be able to assist you in crafting a plea agreement involving a lesser crime with a lower minimum punishment.

A federal probation officer will visit with you and conduct an interview after a conviction. The probation officer will inquire about your family history, substance abuse, criminal history, and your personal history (including any uncharged criminal conduct). The judge will receive a pre-sentence report prepared by the probation officer. In conjunction with that report they will consult the United States Sentencing Commission’s guidelines. The guidelines require that judges consider the following factors during sentencing:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense and history of the defendant
  • The need for the sentence to reflect retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation
  • Whether or not probation is allowed or the offense carries a mandatory minimum
  • Application of statutory sentencing guidelines
  • The need to avoid sentencing disparities between those convicted of similar offenses
  • The need to make restitution to the victim

In addition to any mandatory minimum punishment associated with a given charge, there may be enhancements based on your history or status. As mentioned above, there are only two sentences available after conviction on a federal charge, probationary and prison sentences. Probationary sentences include a long list of requirements and supervision by the probation department, and if you violate those conditions, the sentence can become a prison sentence. Prison sentences are the length of time handed down by the judge, though you can earn credits of up to 54 days per year for good behavior. This means that for every 365-day calendar year you may only serve 311 days before release.

Navigating the Federal Courts is complicated and requires special expertise. Barber Law Group is experienced in the Arizona Federal Court system and can assist you. Wherever you live in Maricopa or Pima Counties, contact us for a free consultation today.

Contact an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney for more information on fighting federal charges and navigating the process. Many lawyers do not practice in Federal Court so it is crucial that you find an attorney licensed in our District. Our firm also represents people in other Maricopa County cities such as Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Gilbert as well as Pima County residents in Tucson and others throughout the state. Call today to speak with a lawyer.

Author: Bretton Barber

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