I Was Convicted Of A Crime. What’s Next?

Whether you were convicted by a judge or jury or pleaded guilty to a criminal offense, the next phase in the process is sentencing. A judge will determine what penalties you must face for your crimes. Judges have some discretion in sentencing (less so if the case involves mandatory minimum sentencing), but typical penalties include prison time, fines, restitution, and sex offender registration (in cases involving sex charges).

In select cases, you may qualify for a first offender program (diversionary program), which can offer alternative sentencing and options for avoiding a permanent criminal record.

The Federal Sentencing Process

The federal sentencing guidelines produce recommended sentences. Guideline sentences are based on the specific characteristics of the offense committed and the prior history of the person convicted. After a conviction or guilty plea, the U.S. Department of Probation will create a pre-sentence report (PSR) that will contain a recommended sentencing range.

You also have the opportunity to present your own sentencing memorandum for the sentencing judge’s consideration. This is your opportunity to tell the judge “your side” of the story – what the circumstances were surrounding the federal offense and your background – and ultimately attempt to persuade the judge that you deserve a lesser sentence.

The judge will review the PSR, your sentencing memorandum, and the recommendation of the prosecutor to determine your appropriate sentence.

Expert TipSince the landmark decision of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), the United States Sentence Guidelines are “advisory” only, meaning judges are no longer required to impose a sentence within the guideline range. Thus, even if the guidelines provide for a severe sentence in a particular case, an experienced defense attorney can argue for a “downward variance” to persuade the court that the recommended sentence exceeds the penalty necessary to achieve the purposes of sentencing. See e.g., the United States v. Autery, 555 F.3d. 864 (9 th Cir. 2009) (affirming probation sentence, despite the recommended guideline sentence of 41-51 months in prison, based on the defendant’s personal history and characteristics).

“Three Strikes” Sentencing Laws In Federal Court

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 implemented mandatory life sentences for anyone who is convicted of a serious violent felony and who also at least one other serious felony conviction from state or federal court and another criminal conviction on his or her record.

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 an 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 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.