Understanding Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a complicated set of rules and numbers that give a range of how much time a judge should sentence someone to prison for. The guidelines can be so complicated that there are year long classes in law school that deal with only criminal federal sentencing guidelines. For a first time observer the guidelines can be quite overwhelming and very hard to understand. At Trusted Prison Consultants we are often retained to consult of the sentencing guidelines and give a report on all the possible reductions. We are even also often involved in providing psychological evaluations for the client and any other mitigating information in order to have their sentencing offense level reduced. Again, the guidelines are very complicated so we did what we could to put together a small summary for a first time observer to better understand.

Base Offense Level For Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The base offense level is the number that one starts at. The actual sentencing guidelines are a chart that can be found online when looking for the sentencing table. How they work is as follows. It starts with a base offense level. This is just a random number but this number is associated with the time that one would do in prison. For example, if you are a base offense level of 20 then you would do 33-41 months in Federal Prison. If you were a base offense level of 10 then you would do 6-12 months in federal prison. This is that start before anything else is considered.

Criminal History Level For Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The criminal history level works with the base offense level. The criminal history level increases the time in custody the higher it goes. For example if one has a criminal history score of 20 and they have a criminal history level of 4 then they would do 41-51 month in Federal Custody. The criminal history level score is determined by the judge in the case, after a recommendation has been made by all parties and taking into consideration the pre sentence report. If you have prior felonies, it would be likely that your criminal history score would be higher. Someone with no criminal history would likely have a criminal history score of a 0.

Departures in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Departures are departures from the base offense level. For example someone could have a base offense level of 20 and get a departure of 2, which would change their base offense level to an 18. The most common federal sentencing departures are discussed below.

  • Cooperation

Cooperation is something that does happen during the Federal Court Process. Often times on drug related cases, the U.S. attorney will propose something called a proffer, which is essentially a meeting to see if there is anything you can tell them that would help the further prosecution of unrelated cases. After the proffer meeting the U.S. attorney can award a departure called 5K which basically says that this person has been cooperative throughout the process and deserve a departure in the sentencing guidelines.

  • Safety Valve

Safety Valve is a departure that is given to people who have no criminal history or very little criminal history. It is basically reserved for first time offenders. Safety Valve is usually a departure of 2 points from the base offense.

  • Acceptance of Responsibility

Acceptance of responsibility is one of the easiest departures to earn. If you plead guilty to an offense and do not deny it then you should be receiving the acceptance of responsibility departure.

  • Fast Track

Fast Track is something that is not offered in all federal courts and not offered on all cases. Fast Track is a departure that is reserved for people who disposed of their case is a very quick manner. They give this departure to motivate people to not waste government time and resources.

How Trusted Prison Consultants Can Help

Federal cases are very complicated and that is why many people have a lawyer. The problem is, a lot of these times it may be a federal defender who is paid by the government or just someone who doesn’t know the guidelines as well as they should. Whether it’s a second opinion or just us stepping in when the time is right, we are here to help and we are here to discuss your case.