Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago
Federal sentencing guidelines apply to individuals who’ve been convicted in a U.S. federal court of a felony or Class A misdemeanor. The guidelines, which are established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, are intended to create a uniform system of punishments for individuals who commit federal crimes. The federal sentencing guidelines are extremely complex and may be difficult to understand without the assistance of an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer to explain them.
How Punishments are Determined Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines
I. Adjustments Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines
The federal sentencing guidelines specify 43 levels of offenses and the severity of your punishment depends on first establishing the base level of the crime you’re convicted of. As a general rule, the higher level of the offense, the more severe the punishment will be. The offense level may be adjusted upward or downward if certain mitigating or aggravating factors apply. These typically include:
- Adjustments based on your role in the crime
- Adjustments based on your acceptance or denial of responsibility for your actions
- Adjustments based on the nature of the victim or motivation for the crime (i.e. hate crimes, acts of terrorism)
- Adjustments based on whether the case involves multiple counts
- Adjustments based on whether or not you obstructed justice
Your prior criminal history also plays a role in determining what type of penalty you’re eligible for. The federal sentencing guidelines recognize six criminal history categories, each of which is assigned a specific number of points. Your sentence is ultimately determined by how your offense level corresponds to what criminal history category you’re assigned to.
II. Departures Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines
In addition to adjusting the base level offense upward or downward, the court may also grant an upward or downward departure, which allows for the imposition of a sentence that is outside the range specified by the sentencing guidelines. Departures may be granted based on a number of factors, such as:
- Death of the victim
- Severe physical or psychological injury to the victim
- Extreme cruelty or torture by the offender
- Whether the victim was kidnapped or otherwise held against their will
- Whether the crime resulted in damage to property or financial loss
- Use of a weapon
- Whether the victim’s behavior somehow contributed to the criminal act
- Diminished mental capacity of the offender
- Gang involvement
- Whether the crime involved a sexual offense or an offense against a child
- Whether the crime involved drugs
- Duress or coercion
While most of these factors may result in an upward departure, a significant downward departure may be possible if you provide substantial assistance to the government by aiding in the investigation of another individual or organization. IN some cases, the court may even recommend a downward departure below the statutory minimum.
Probation and Supervised Release
The federal sentencing guidelines also establish specific guidelines for offenders who are subject to probation or supervised release. For an offense level of 6 or higher, the guidelines call for a probation period of one to five years. Individuals who are sentenced to at least one year in prison are subject to a period of supervised release upon completion of their sentence. The length of the supervised release period is typically based upon what class of felony you’re convicted of and generally lasts between three and five years. The guidelines do, however, allow for lifetime supervised release of offenders convicted of certain crimes such as terrorism.
Contact a Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with a federal crime, you may face very serious penalties if convicted. The key to ensuring the most favorable outcome is to secure the services of a qualified Chicago criminal defense attorney as early on in the process as possible. Attorney Michael Schmiege offers expert legal representation to individuals facing federal charges in the Chicago area and throughout the United States. He will work diligently on your behalf to ensure that your rights and your freedom are preserved.
Call (312) 906-7800 to schedule a free initial evaluation of your criminal case.