Seeking a Downward Departure in Federal Court
The federal sentencing guidelines provide district court judges with the parameters for imposing sentence on individuals who’ve been convicted of federal crimes. In certain cases, the judge may choose to depart from the sentencing guidelines and impose a penalty that is outside the maximum or minimum penalty allowed. An upward departure involves an increase in sentence while a downward departure involves receiving a sentence that is below the minimum. If you’ve been convicted of a federal crime and you believe a downward departure may be warranted , it’s important that you have an experienced Chicago criminal attorney on your side.
Eligibility for a Downward Departure
Either the defense or the prosecuting attorney may file a motion requesting a downward departure. When hearing a motion for downward departure, the court will carefully evaluate the facts of the case as well as the defendant’s individual situation to determine if a lesser sentence is appropriate. Some of the situations that may justify a downward departure include:
- The defendant provides substantial assistance to the federal government in aiding the investigation or prosecution of another individual or individuals.
- The defendant voluntarily admitted to the crime and accepted full responsibility for their actions.
- The defendant was suffering from diminished capacity at the time the criminal act occurred.
- The defendant’s participation in the crime was the result of duress or coercion.
- The defendant was a minor.
- The minimum sentence allowed under the guidelines would be the equivalent of a life sentence.
- The defendant has no prior criminal history and the criminal behavior in question is considered out of character.
- The defendant has a prior history of good behavior or acts in the community.
- The defendant committed the criminal act in order to avoid a perceived greater harm.
In cases where the defendant is seeking a departure based on cooperation with a federal investigation, it is particularly helpful to enlist the aid of a qualified Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer. The federal government may seek additional charges for obstruction of justice if it’s determined that you intentionally held back information or provided false information as part of your cooperation agreement.
Consult a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Chicago
Unless you’re planning to offer assistance to the government, the prosecuting attorney will not automatically seek a downward departure on your behalf. If the prosecutor does not raise the issue of a departure, it’s the responsibility of your Federal Criminal Defense Attorney to do so. Your attorney will carefully evaluate the facts of your case to determine whether there are any mitigating factors which might make a downward departure appropriate. Your defense lawyer is responsible for filing the proper motion with the court, which is charged with making the final determination.
The federal sentencing guidelines are complex and only an attorney who is knowledgeable in federal law can successfully assist you in obtaining a downward departure. If you’re facing conviction for a federal crime in the Chicago area or throughout the U.S., Attorney Michael P. Schmiege can provide you with the expert legal representation you need. He specializes in assisting defendants who are seeking a reduction of their sentence under the federal guidelines. You can trust that he will work diligently on your behalf to help you to negotiate the most favorable outcome possible.
Call (312) 906-7800 today to schedule a no-cost evaluation of your case with an aggressive Chicago criminal defense attorney.