Sentencing Hearings


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
explains Federal Sentencing Hearings.


Sentencing hearings in federal court can cause extreme anxiety.  The formality, fear of the unknown, and power of the federal government add to the inherent feeling any person will have when facing sentence on a criminal charge.  SLG Law has experience mitigating that anxiety and fear.  In many respects, federal sentences can be less draconian than state sentences.  There are often avenues to dramatically decrease the sanctions you face, including incarceration, fines, probation, etc. Give us a call to discuss your case and how we can help.

What factors will the judge consider in my sentencing hearing?

If you've pled guilty or were convicted at trial of a federal offense, you will have a sentencing hearing before a federal judge.  The judge will have the option to sentence you up to the statutory maximum sentence, however, there are several factors the judge must consider.  Those factors are enumerated in 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a):

3553(a) Sentencing Factors

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense and history and characteristics of the Defendant,
  • The need for the sentence imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense,
  • The need for the sentence imposed to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct,
  • the need for the sentence imposed to protect the public from further crimes of the Defendant,
  • The need for the sentence imposed to provide the Defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner,
  • The kind of sentences available,
  • the applicable sentencing guideline range,
  • any pertinent sentencing guideline policy statement,
  • the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct, and
  • the need to provide restitution to any victim of the offense. 


What will happen at the sentencing hearing?

The first thing the judge will do is determine the guideline range.  If there is any disagreement between your attorney and the government, both attorneys can argue and/or present testimony or evidence relating to the guideline determination.  The judge will then make a final decision on what your guideline range is.  The judge will then listen to both sides.  Your attorney can present witnesses and/or evidence.  For example, you may want to have some family members testify about your childhood and some of the good things you've done in your life.  You may want a prior boss to testify about your work ethic.  You may want to present family photos, letters from friends and family, medical records, and any other evidence that the judge should consider in rendering a sentence.  You will also have an opportunity to speak to the judge. 

The prosecutor will also be able to present testimony and/or evidence in aggravation if they wish.  They typically will simply offer argument in lieu of witnesses and evidence, unless it is a significant or serious offense or unless they feel they must rebut a statement that you or your attorney made. 

After all evidence and witnesses are presented, both your attorney and the prosecutor will make a closing argument applying the facts of your case and your history to the 3553(a) factors and requesting a specific or general sentence.  After the attorneys are finished, the judge will render sentence. 

Will I be taken into custody at my sentencing hearing?

There really is no way to know whether you will be taken into custody at your sentencing hearing because nobody knows what sentence you will receive before the sentence is rendered.  Your attorney should have a pretty good idea and can give you their educated opinion.  For example, if your guidelines are 0-6 months, you have no prior record, the case is not aggravated, the prosecutor isn't asking for incarceration and your particular judge historically gives probation in cases like that, your attorney may be confident that you won't be given a sentence that includes incarceration.  On the flip side of that, if you have been in custody during the pendency of the case, have a high incarceration guideline, are in Zone D of the Sentencing Table, the prosecutor is seeking incarceration, and the particular judge historically stays close to the guideline range, then it would probably be pretty certain that you would receive a term of incarceration and the judge would not let you out of custody to later turn yourself in. 

If you are out of custody at the sentencing hearing and the judge sentences you to jail or prison, you will often be eligible to turn yourself in at a later date.  This is an option the judge has in certain situations.  Consult with your attorney about whether this is a possibility in your case. 

How can you help me at a Federal Sentencing?

Many attorneys believe that most judges have a pretty good idea of what sentence they are going to render before the sentencing hearing even occurs.  Even if this is not the case, they probably have a range in their head as they prepare for the sentencing hearing.  This is why, in certain cases, preparation prior to the sentencing hearing is so important.  We can prepare and file a Sentencing Memorandum well in advance of the sentencing hearing. 

Sentencing memorandums accomplish several goals.  It sheds the light most favorable to you early in the sentencing process.  Up to that point, the judge has simply seen the bad stuff.  The allegations of the offense, your criminal history, the prosecutor's rendition of facts and events.  A sentencing memorandum is your opportunity to show the judge the good in you and to challenge any misrepresentations in the case.  It sets the stage for the sentencing hearing, which can be extremely important and can alter the outcome of the case. 

The way information is collected, packaged, and articulated to the judge can have a dramatic effect on the outcome.  Knowing which battles to fight and which ones not to can also dramatically change the way a judge perceives the information.  Knowing the judge and having experience in seeing how that particular judge has handled different situations will prevent you from falling into a trap that others before you have fallen.  Having an experienced Federal criminal defense attorney is an investment in your freedom. 

If you have a pending or upcoming Federal Criminal case, and you want to discuss how we can help you,

Call us now!

Shorstein, Lasnetski, & Gihon

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

or 407-228-2019

(Orlando)

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