Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Chicago
When the federal sentencing guidelines were first implemented, they prescribed mandatory sentences for individuals convicted of federal crimes. In 2005, the Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Booker, which challenged the constitutionality of mandatory sentences. The case involved a defendant whose base level offense had been increased by a judge based on a preponderance of evidence that was not presented to the jury. Based on this evidence, the minimum sentence the defendant was eligible to receive was increased from 10 years in prison to 30. The defendant appealed based on a denial of his constitutional rights.
The Court ruled that based on the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury, a sentence could only be calculated based on the defendant’s own admissions or facts proven beyond a reasonable doubt as established by a jury. The ruling was based on a ruling made six months earlier in Blakely vs. Washington, where the court opted to impose the same requirement on a sentencing guidelines scheme that was being used in Washington state. The court’s finding in Blakely was based on the case of Apprendi v. New Jersey, where the court ruled that with the exception of prior convictions, any evidence or fact that would increase a defendant’s punishment beyond the statutory maximum must be presented to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
How Booker Affects Federal Sentencing Strategies
Prior to the Booker case, individuals convicted of federal crimes could potentially face rigid sentences based on the mandatory nature of the federal sentencing guidelines. Following the court’s ruling in Booker, federal district judges now have the ability to impose a sentence that is within the framework of the sentencing guidelines while also taking into account certain relevant factors which may mitigate or aggravate the penalty. This means that rather than facing a blanket sentence for a criminal conviction, federal defendants may be eligible to receive sentences that are tailored to their individual situation. The court may consider any and all of the following factors when imposing sentence:
- The nature and circumstances of the crime
- The defendant’s criminal history
- How well the sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime
- Whether the sentence should include medical care, educational training, counseling or treatment
- The range of sentences available
- Whether restitution to the victim is necessary
After taking all of the relevant factors into consideration, the court is charged with issuing a sentence that is appropriate to the crime and to the defendant. For example, the court has the option of adjusting the defendant’s base level offense upward or downward, which directly corresponds to the type of punishment the individual is eligible to receive. The court may also depart from the sentencing guidelines in certain situations when an increase or reduction in the penalty is necessary.
Charged with a federal crime? Contact a criminal defense attorney in Chicago!
When you’ve been charged with a federal crime, hiring an experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney should be your top priority. Your attorney will evaluate the facts of your case to determine whether there are any mitigating factors which may support an adjustment of your base level offense or a downward departure within the sentencing guidelines if you’re convicted.
Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Schmiege offers aggressive and vigorous representation to defendants who’ve been charged with a federal crime in the Chicago area and/or throughout the United States. If you’re facing a prison term for your criminal acts, he will work diligently on your behalf to make a strong argument for adjustment or downward departure under the Booker guidelines.
Call (312) 906-7800 today to get the expert legal representation you need from a Chicago Criminal Lawyer to preserve your rights and your freedom.