When a crime is prosecuted in a federal court the trials will follow federal procedures. It only makes sense for a federal court to set their own guidelines when sentencing in their own courts. These guidelines were actually enacted fairly recently as a result of some sentencing discrepancies. This enactment took place in 1984 and is called the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.
Before this time, a sentence was given in a maximum and minimum time served and the details would be decided by the prison board. But, under the new system the dates and time served can be set at the time of sentencing.
This functions better both for the defendants and the prison systems. Now the defendant will receive their sentencing at one point and will not have to work with the prison board to determine how much longer their sentence will last.
Offenses will be evaluated by their seriousness when being prosecuted in federal court. If a crime is especially heinous, it will be considered more serious and merit a more severe sentencing. There are set guidelines for determining which of the 43 degrees of severity the crime in question will fall into. Each crime will be given its base sentence and then the level severity can be increased or decreased from this point.
For example, if the crime was robbery, the offense is already severe. But, if the defendant also brandished a weapon the severity rises. If a firearm was discharged during the robbery, the severity level of the crime can rise higher.
The severity may be decreased if the defendant’s role in the crime was minor. But, if the defendant chose the victim because of their age, mental state or some other vulnerability, the charges may be more severe. The specific adjustments and characteristics of a crime can be affected by many factors related.
Criminal History Category
Another important factor that will be taken into account will be the criminal record of the defendant. The specifics of their criminal record can have them placed into 1 of six categories identified by Roman numerals.
The first is the least severe category, reserved for first time offenders. At the other end of the line in category six are the more severe categories. These are reserved for defendants with a longer history of more serious criminal activity.
The Guideline Range
To determine the final official offense level all the factors will be considered. First the adjustments and characteristics of the crime itself will be applied. After the level of the crime is determined it will be connected to an appropriate prison sentence as laid out on a table, listed by months.
Then again, if the offense is especially high, or the criminal history category more severe, the sentence applied to the defendant can be much more severe.