Sentencing Guidelines for Federal Crimes

Certain crimes that violate the United States Criminal Code are not charged in Oklahoma state courts, but in federal court.  Cases tried in federal court generally have a higher rate of conviction than those tried in state court, and a conviction of a federal offense generally carries a more severe penalty than the same crime would yield in an Oklahoma district court.  

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Sentences for conviction of federal felonies and Class A misdemeanors are determined in alignment with Federal Sentencing Guidelines as determined by the United States Sentencing Commission.

Initially, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were designed to be mandatory, but in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Guidelines unconstitutionally violated a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights.  

After the Court's ruling in United States v. Booker, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were determined to be advisory rather than mandatory. The U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a complex document exceeding 500 pages.  

A lawyer who specializes in federal crimes can help a defendant understand where his or her offense falls within the guidelines to determine the likelihood of a particular sentence.  Because the Guidelines are advisory in nature, a specific sentence may fall above or below the guidelines depending on mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and even the particular attitude of the sentencing judge.

To determine one's possible sentence based on Federal Sentencing Guidelines, one must look at the specific offense with which the defendant is charged and the defendant's criminal history.  Following are the steps to determining the sentence recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines:

  1. Look up the offense with which you are charged in the USSG Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
  2. In Chapter 2 of the Guidelines, determine the Base Offense Level of the crime, and make any applicable additions to the Base Level for Specific Offense Characteristics.
  3. In Chapter 3 of the Guidelines, make any adjustments pertaining to your specific offense, increasing for aggravating factors and reducing for mitigating circumstances.
  4. In Chapter 4 of the Guidelines, determine your Criminal History, whether you are a first offender or a Career Offender.
  5. Using your Base Number, including adjustments, and your Criminal History Points, use the USSG Sentencing Chart to determine your likely sentence.
Though as described, determining a recommended sentence is only a few simple steps, it is important to remember that the Guidelines are more than 500 pages long with complex formulas for determining an offense level and criminal history.  

Defense Against Federal Charges

A skilled criminal attorney can help determine your likely sentence and can fight aggressively in court to defend you against the charges you face.  He or she will work with you to maximize any "downward departures" in sentencing and minimize any "upward departures" from the guidelines.  For more information about federal crime and federal sentencing guidelines, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Oklahoma City.

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