South Carolina Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers – Federal Sentencing
The court will schedule a sentencing hearing if you have been found guilty. Prior to the hearing, the court will order that a Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. Sentencing guidelines, which are law, will be used to determine your sentence.
Under the guidelines, the severity of the offense and the extent of your criminal history will largely dictate the sentence you receive. In some cases, your criminal history alone may be the key factor. Federal law mandates severe sentences for persons with certain types of prior convictions. As you can see, your criminal record may play a significant role in your decision to plead guilty or go to trial.
Your sentence also will depend, in part, on whether your decision was to plead guilty or go to trial. The decision to plead guilty or go to trial is a critical decision in your case. You must discuss the application of the guidelines with your attorney to ensure that your decision is fully informed.
Your attorney will get a copy of the PSR, and you will have an opportunity to review it for accuracy before you are sentenced. You may want to speak to the judge at your sentencing hearing. If so, you should discuss that with your attorney well before the sentencing hearing. Do not wait until the day of the sentencing to make this important decision.
The District Court Judge also will give your attorney and, perhaps, other interested persons an opportunity to speak on your behalf. Friends, colleagues, or family members also may choose to write a letter to the sentencing judge regarding you. Any such letters should be sent directly to your attorney who will present them to the court. Let your attorney or investigator know well in advance of sentencing the names and addresses of the people you believe will want to write or speak on your behalf at sentencing. Remember: you may seriously jeopardize your case if anything presented by you or your witnesses appears to be untrue or conflicts with the PSR and cannot be satisfactorily explained. Here, as always in your case, it is important that you provide accurate information.
Types of Sentences
In federal court, most people found guilty are jailed as part of their sentence. While probation is an option in some cases, probation alone is rare. In many cases probation is not an option the judge can consider. The harshest sentence you can receive upon conviction (aside from the death penalty which is applicable to certain federal crimes) will be an order sentencing you to confinement in a federal prison, which is controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (B.O.P.). You could be placed in any institution in the U.S. While the B.O.P. tries to place most people as close to their home state as possible, many factors are involved in assigning the place of confinement. Such factors include the offense of conviction, your prior record, and the length of sentence. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Sentence reductions for good conduct in prison are limited. If sentenced to prison, you can expect to serve at least 85% of your sentence.
If you are given a sentence of imprisonment, as most people are, you should be prepared to begin serving it immediately. You usually will not be given an opportunity to go home to “get your affairs in order.” You will be turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshal immediately after sentencing. Do not wear any jewelry, watches, or other items of value to the sentencing hearing. You should make arrangements for someone to take care of your personal and financial matters before you are taken into custody.
As part of your sentence, you may be put on probation for a certain time. Probation is a privilege – not a right. Even if you are a first time offender, you will not automatically receive probation. Oftentimes, the court also will fine you. The amount of the fine usually is set in the sentencing guidelines or under other laws. Your attorney can advise you as to whether you probably will be required to pay a fine.
Supervised release also must be imposed when you are given a prison sentence. When you are released from jail, you will be under the court’s supervision for several years. If you violate the conditions of your supervised release, you can be sentenced to an additional jail term. You also can lose all credit for “street time” spent while on supervised release.