How Do The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work?

Posted By max soni, On February 2, 2019

Sentences imposed on federal crimes are majorly based on the federal sentencing guidelines. These guidelines form the foundation for federal sentencing in numerous cases. They provide the basic standard on which the reasonableness of any imposed federal sentencing is judged. According to statistics, more than 75% of the sentences imposed by federal courts in the last quarter of 2014 fell within the recommendations of this particular guideline. The United States Sentencing Commission drafts these guidelines. These guidelines are purposed to help direct the sentencing of persons who have committed crimes in moths in relation to the crime they have committed. The federal sentencing guidelines are based on three critical parts. These are;


The criminal history of the accused


The number of months an accused person is sentenced to stay in a federal prison hugely relies on their criminal history According to the federal sentencing guidelines. If the accused has never committed any crimes prior to that particular one, they are recognized as a criminal history category one. On the other hand, if the accused has previous committed numerous crimes, they are recognized as a criminal history category six. According to the federal sentencing guidelines, the punishment in months goes higher the more the criminal history the accused has.


The kind of crime the accused has committed


The federal sentencing guidelines also take into consideration the kind of crime the accused has committed. Each crime has a different offense level depending on its severity. For instance, if the crime committed is bank fraud, the offense level will be a little less than murder. The offense level will still have to put bank fraud ahead of other less severe crimes and below more severe crimes like espionage and murder.


Departures and adjustments


Departures and adjustments from the federal sentencing guidelines are allowed to happen to a given range depending on a number of factors. For instance, if an accused person happens to plead guilty to their crimes, they can have several levels off their offense level. This translates to somewhat fewer months in a federal prison. On the other hand, if victims of the offender’s crimes are many, levels get added to their crimes, and this translates to more months in a federal prison. For more information on this departures and adjustments, click here.


You should keep in mind that according to the Supreme Court, the federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory. The judge is not required to follow these guidelines when issuing a sentencing for a federal crime. Despite this, they form a foundation for which many judges issue out their sentences. As mentioned earlier, the majority of judges still issue their sentencing based on these guidelines. There are several other factors that despite not being the basis of federal sentencing guidelines, they still influence how the work. These are;


The role of the accused in the offense


The federal sentencing guidelines also puts into consideration the role of the accused in the crime of conviction. There are five sections considered in this criterion, these are:


– Aggravating roles


– Mitigating roles


– Abuse of position of trust and use of special skill: As the accused, you are likely to get a two-level enhancement to your offense if you are convicted of abusing a position of public or private trust or a special skill. The same enhancement of offense level applies if the position of trust, for instance, impersonation of an attorney or doctor, was obtained through deception.


– Use of a minor: If you as the accused is proven to have directed, commanded, encouraged, intimidated, solicit, or trained a minor below the age of 18 years to commit a crime you will get a two-level enhancement in your sentencing. This guideline does not take into consideration whether you were aware of the minor’s age as the accused or the minor was aware that they were committing a crime.


– Use of body armor in a crime of violence or drug trafficking: For more information on this subject, click here.


The guidelines allow for the adjustment of the accused’s crime level depending on their level of participation in that particular offense. This adjustment doesn’t apply if the offense of conviction is a one-person crime or if the accused is of average culpability for the crimes involving more than one offender. Further more, there is an increase of four offense levels if you as the accused are a leader of large criminal endeavor – with five or more participants – or its organizer. If you were among the managerial subordinates – including managers and supervisors – you will be handed three levels increase in your offense.




If any of the crimes that you have been accused of fall under the more than 41 crimes defined as terrorism then you will land a 12-level enhancement in your sentencing according to the federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines instruct that the offense level for this crime must add up to 32 and criminal history set to category five.