The federal sentencing guidelines are discretionary measures intended to create both uniformity and proportionality in sentencing for people convicted of federal crimes. For years, though, mandatory minimum sentences have resulted in extremely disproportionate sentences for some federal drug crimes.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 called for the development of guidelines for federal sentences. Through the guidelines, Congress sought to narrow the disparity in sentences imposed for similar crimes committed by people in similar circumstances. Congress also sought proportionality so the sentence imposed for a particular crime would match the severity of the offense.

Accordingly, the United States Sentencing Commission was formed to develop a national sentencing policy for federal courts. The Commission eventually produced federal sentencing guidelines that structure judges’ sentencing discretion.

Basically, the federal sentencing guidelines allocate a base-level sentence to each federal offense. Aggravating factors may increase the suggested sentence length, and mitigating factors may decrease the suggested sentence. Although federal judges are not required to follow the sentencing guidelines, deviation from the sentencing structure is rare.

Your criminal defense lawyer can play a major role in determining how the federal sentencing guidelines are applied to your case, including objecting to errors or mistakes in the pre-sentencing report. If you are facing federal sentencing without an attorney on your side, contact a lawyer from Marcilliat & Mills PLLC right away. We offer a free consultation and can explain if and how we can help you based on the facts of your situation.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

In addition to the federal sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimum sentences also affect sentences for federal drug crimes. In the late 1980s, amid growing concern over crack cocaine use, Congress passed legislation creating mandatory minimum sentence lengths for federal crimes involving crack cocaine and other drugs.

Under the mandatory minimum laws, someone convicted of possessing 5 grams of crack cocaine -the weight of just two pennies – received at least five years in prison. Someone convicted of possessing 50 grams of crack cocaine would receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. In contrast, the weight required to trigger the same sentences with powder cocaine was 100 times greater.

Advocates assert that different mandatory minimum sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses greatly undermine the uniformity and proportionality goals of the sentencing guidelines. And recently, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity between the sentences from 100:1 to 18:1. It also eliminated the five year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.

Regardless of the modification, however, harsh mandatory minimum sentences still loom over many people facing federal drug crime charges. If you are under investigation for or have been charged with a federal drug crime, contact an experienced federal drug crime lawyer to help you defend your rights and present your best case against severe mandatory minimum sentences and the federal sentencing guidelines.

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive-by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with the prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death.

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.:

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.