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Understanding Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Understanding Federal Sentencing Guidelines

What are Federal l Sentencing Guidelines?

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a list of formal rules that establish a uniform sentencing policy for individuals and organizations convicted of serious Class A misdemeanors and felonies in the United States federal courts system. The sentencing structure affirmed by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines do not apply to less serious infractions.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines determine sentences based primarily on the following two factors:

o The conduct associated with the felony or Class a misdemeanor and the defendant’s criminal history

o These two factors are outlines in the Guidelines Manual or the affirmed Federal Sentencing Guidelines. This manual shows the relationship between the above factors; each offense level and criminal history category matches with a sentencing range, in months, within which the respective court can sentence the defendant.  

Offense Levels and Criminal History:

In addition to the table, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines utilizes 43 offense level; the offense level of a defendant is determined by viewing the offense in Chapter 2 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and applying applicable adjustments. 

Attached to the 43 offense levels are six separate criminal history categories; each criminal history category is associated with a range of criminal history points. So, for example, a defendant with a 0 or 1 criminal history point would be listed in Criminal History Category VI. The criminal history points are calculated by adding 3 points for each prior conviction or imprisonment that exceeds one year and one month. 2 points is added for each prior sentence or imprisonment of at least sixty days but no more than 13 months. And 1 point is added for each prior sentence of less than sixty days.

Who Establishes the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency of the judicial of the United States Federal Government. Although the United States Sentencing Commission maintains an independent status, the agency works closely with law makers and the judicial branch of government to articulate the sentencing guidelines for the federal court system. 

The United States Sentencing Commission is regarded as a fundamental agency to the United States Federal Government because of its influence and expertise regarding the establishment of adequate sentencing guidelines. The United States Sentencing Commission promulgates the Federal Sentencing Guidelines—the fundamental framework used to establish punishments. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines replaced the prior framework, which utilized an indeterminate sentencing system. In the previous system, trial judges were permitted to give sentences ranging from probation to the maximum statutory punishment for the underlying offense.