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Federal Sentencing Guidelines, by Criminal Defense Lawyer.com


Includes a Sentencing Table and other facts that impact how criminal sentences are determined. -CCE

The federal sentencing guidelines are rules that federal judges are required to consider when sentencing someone who has been convicted of a crime. Intended to give federal judges fair and consistent sentencing ranges to consult when they are handing down a sentence, the guidelines are based on both the seriousness of the crime and the particular offender’s characteristics and criminal record.

The guidelines are not mandatory. (United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 20 (2005).) But a judge who wants to impose a sentence that is different—whether it’s harsher or more lenient—from the one calculated by using the guidelines must explain the decision.

The United States Sentencing Commission

Federal sentencing guidelines are written by an independent agency called the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which is part of the judicial branch of the federal government. In addition to promulgating the guidelines, the commission advises the other branches of government on criminal policy matters and collects and analyzes crime and sentencing data.

How the Sentencing Guidelines Work

The guidelines assign most federal crimes to one of 43 ‘offense levels.’  Each offender is assigned to one of six ‘criminal history categories,’ based upon the extent and recency of past criminal activity.

The point at which the offense level and criminal history category intersect on the Commission’s sentencing table determines an offender’s guideline range.  To provide flexibility, the top of each guideline range exceeds the bottom by six months or 25 percent (whichever is greater).  Judges are advised to choose a sentence from within the guideline range unless they identify a factor that the Sentencing Commission failed to consider that should result in a different sentence. . . .