Last time, we began looking at the issue of fraud charges and the federal sentencing guidelines. As we noted, it is important to have a strong advocate in federal fraud cases, all the way through the sentencing phase of the criminal process. Sentencing presents numerous opportunities for legal advocacy, and an experienced advocate can help provide a criminal defendant a better shot at minimizing the consequences of conviction.
There are several ways a skilled advocate can represent the interests of a criminal defendant in sentencing. First of all, the federal sentencing guidelines involve the calculation of specific numbers pertaining to the defendant's criminal history and the seriousness of the offense. Getting these numbers right is important to ensure that the sentencing range the court comes up with is proper under the guidelines.
Another way an advocate can help in sentencing is to highlight aspects of the criminal case which dictate in favor of departing from the prescribed sentencing range. The federal sentencing guidelines identify specific circumstances in which the sentence may be reduced or enhanced based on factors in the case which are not specifically addressed by the guidelines pertaining to each specific offense.
A third way a skilled defense attorney can provide advocacy in sentencing is to appeal to a judge's discretion in sentencing in general. Although the federal sentencing guidelines are important, judges are not bound by them and have the discretion to impose a sentence different than would be prescribed by the guidelines.