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What Are Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court

In Federal Court, sentencing after a conviction or plea bargain can be fairly predictable. This predictability comes from the fact that most (though not all) federal courts will fairly closely follow Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Knowing what these Guidelines look like means that a lawyer can have a pretty good idea of what sentence is most likely before the plea bargain is accepted or the trial completed.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines, in the simplest sense, are a chart which helps a judge determine sentencing based on a number of factors. It’s essentially a formula designed to make federal sentences uniform. These guidelines are based on a few factors, including: 

  • The offense one is convicted of committing
  • The amounts involved in said offense (for money-related fraud cases, the amounts might be dollars alleged to be stolen, for drug cases the amounts might be weights of drugs allegedly trafficked)
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • The defendant’s role in the offense

In order to predict a possible sentence before-hand, your attorney would need to know certain facts about the allegations against you as well as about your criminal history. Many cases in federal court end in some type of plea bargain, and federal sentencing guidelines are an extremely important part of that, so they’re very important to understand anytime you’re dealing with federal criminal court.

If you or a loved one has a pending case in Federal Court, the attorneys at the Complete Legal Defense Team may be able to help: contact our office at 843-627-4025.

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