Sentencing Memos in Columbus

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There is a high probability that a defendant charged with a crime in federal court will end up in a sentencing hearing. From the advent of the Sentencing Guidelines system in 1987 until January 2005, sentencing advocacy was virtually non-existent. During that time-frame, judges simply computed the Sentencing Guidelines and determined if there were reasons to depart, either above or below, the Guidelines range. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of sentences fell within that range.

However, in 2005, the Supreme Court decided Booker which resulted in the federal sentencing process evolving into a three-step process. The first two steps did not change. However, the third step now requires the sentencing judge to consider the range after the first two steps are complete and determine if that range is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary” to satisfy Congress’ sentencing mandate. This step restored sentencing advocacy to the process and requires the judge to consider factors codified in 18 U.S.C. §3553(a) to answer this important question.

If the judge determines that the range is insufficient, then the sentence will be above that range—this happens in less than 2% of the cases in the Southern District of Ohio. After considering the §3553(a) factors, if the judge concludes the range is not “greater than necessary,” then the sentence will be within the Guidelines range. If this is the result, the judge either expressly or impliedly concluded the case fell within the “heartland” carved out by the United States Sentencing Commission. In the Southern District of Ohio, a sentence within the Guidelines range is imposed in about 85% of the cases.

Finally, if after completing the first two steps, the judge concludes the resulting sentencing range is “greater than necessary,” then the sentence will be below that range. This happens in about 15% of the cases in the Southern District of Ohio.

As previously noted, sentencing advocacy is an essential part of federal practice and our firm is very knowledgeable as to how the Sentencing Guidelines should be properly applied and frequently litigates Sentencing Guideline issues to ensure that our clients’ Guidelines ranges are as low as possible.

Identifying issues justifying downward departures is also part of the service our firm provides. The two most common issues that can be consistently relied on to justify this departure would be: (1) a client’s criminal history category significantly over-represents his criminal history; and (2) a client has been of substantial assistance in the “investigation and prosecution of others.”

Advocating for a downward variance in the third step of the sentencing process is paramount. Our firm believes that crafting a sentencing memorandum, tailored to the unique facts and legal issues presented in our clients’ cases, is essential to the zealous representation they deserve in federal court. The goal of the sentencing memorandum is to persuade the sentencing judge that a downward variance from the Sentencing Guidelines range is appropriate.

If you need assistance in drafting this important document, please call our office immediately.

Identifying issues justifying downward departures is also part of the service our firm provides. The two most common issues that can be consistently relied on to justify this departure would be: (1) a client’s criminal history category significantly over-represents his criminal history; and (2) a client has been of substantial assistance in the “investigation and prosecution of others.”

Advocating for a downward variance in the third step of the sentencing process is paramount. Our firm believes that crafting a sentencing memorandum, tailored to the unique facts and legal issues presented in our clients’ cases, is essential to the zealous representation they deserve in federal court. The goal of the sentencing memorandum is to persuade the sentencing judge that a downward variance from the Sentencing Guidelines range is appropriate.

If you need assistance in drafting this important document, please call our office immediately.

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