In our last post, we began speaking about the general way the federal sentencing guidelines work. As we’ve already explained, one of the factors judges take into consideration when determining an offender’s sentencing range is the offense seriousness level, which is made up of the base offense level and specific characteristics of the offense.
Another element that comes into play when determining the offense seriousness level is whether there are any factors that warrant an adjustment. Upward or downward adjustments in the offense seriousness level can be made based on the offender’s role in the criminal activity, factors impacting the victim, whether there was obstruction of justice, and whether the offender accepts responsibility for the criminal behavior.
Adjustments may also be made when there are multiple counts of conviction. Naturally, having an advocate can help ensure that factors which could lead to a downward adjustment are highlighted. The final offense seriousness level is determined by adding/subtracting any offense specific characteristics and adjustments to/from the base offense level.
The other factor the guidelines take into account when determining the guidelines range is the offender’s criminal history. The federal guidelines identify six criminal history categories. Once this is identified, a guideline range can be determined which is appropriate to the case.
For a criminal defendant, ensuring an accurate determination of the offense seriousness level and the offender’s criminal history category is important to achieving a fair guidelines range, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can help with this.
In our next post, we’ll speak about the important issue of departures.