Federal sentencing is tough, and difficult to understand. While a favorable plea agreement may have been agreed to, and objections to the Presentence Investigation Report (more commonly known as PSR), have been made, nothing is certain. All decisions on PSR objections, motions for downward departure, and variances are made in one swoop, on the sentencing date.
Federal sentences are imposed in months, not years, as noted in the below 2023 Sentencing Table. The sentence a person faces is guided by a range. A person’s sentencing range is determined by two factors: the offense level for the crime they pled to, and their criminal history category. In order to appropriately determine a sentence range, a complete list of prior criminal history is needed. For criminal history calculations, any offense within 15 years of the current charge, may count for criminal history category purposes.
The offense level for any offense is found in the 2023 Sentencing Guidelines Manual. The Sentencing Guidelines also include numerous enhancements that can apply based, on the facts of your case. For example, a person charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 922(g), may have a base offense level of 12 or 14. However, if that person was previously convicted of a controlled substance offense, the base offense level is 20. Enhancements also apply in other ways. For example, a person charged with conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram of cocaine faces a base offense level of 24. However, if the person possessed a firearm during his drug activity, a 2 point enhancement would apply, bringing his offense level to 26.
A person’s sentence range is the cross point of their Criminal History Category, and Offense Level. The sentence range is only suggestive of the sentence that a person may face. Federal Judges are no longer required to follow the sentence range found in the Sentencing Guidelines. A judge can sentence a person above or below your sentencing range, as long he sentences you within the full range of punishment for the offense.
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2023 Federal Sentencing Table
This is the table that is used to determine a person's sentencing range in the federal criminal justice system. Sentencing ranges are advisory only. This means that while a judge can consider your sentencing range, the judge does not have to follow the sentencing range. A judge can sentence you any where within the full range of punishment for your offense.