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Judges aren't required to follow federal sentencing guidelines

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a uniform set of nonbinding rules that all U.S. Attorneys are to use to guide them in making sentencing recommendations in criminal cases. It's ultimately up to the federal judge, however, to use their own discretion to decide how much they want to adhere to them when sentencing a convicted defendant.

These guidelines first started being utilized in the United States federal court system in 1987. The judge presiding over the case Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808, 820 (1991), argued that these guidelines provide a "very precise calibration of sentences." They argued that they accomplished this by taking into account a variety of factors including harm and subjective guilt.

The case United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 20 in 2005 was heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2005. In their ruling, the judge highlighted how the guidelines couldn't be considered mandatory, especially if a conviction was reached by the jury without facts being proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

They noted that if federal sentencing guidelines were followed in such a situation, it would violate a defendant's sixth amendment rights. The presiding judge noted that it's the responsibility of his colleagues to protect a defendant's rights.

In that same ruling, the judge also conceded that their colleagues are allowed to use their own discretion in issuing sentences. They noted that it's the judge's responsibility to justify their decision when it departs from the sentencing guidelines.

The Supreme Court panel noted in their ruling on the matter Rita v. United States, 127 S. Ct. 2456 (2007), that any sentence that the Court of Appeals is asked to review should be assessed for how well it applies the guidelines. They noted that if it appears that a proper application has occurred, then they can decide that the sentence is indeed reasonable.

Before an individual is arrested and charged with a federal crime, prosecutors must first present the case to a grand jury who decides whether to indict a suspect on charges or not.

Federal prosecutors have a successful track record. This is one of the reasons that you'll want to have a Minneapolis federal crimes attorney who has a proven track record of success representing your interests.

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