What Are "Sentencing Guidelines?"

Sandusky Trial | Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC

Sandusky Trial | Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC

Sentencing guidelines have been promulgated for prosecutions in federal and many state courts. There are statutory minimum and maximum terms for all crimes. There are also mandatory minimums for particular crimes based upon certain facts. The sentencing guidelines provide both state and federal prosecutors and judges with objective criteria on how to apply such sentencing terms to crimes in an even manner to all defendants that are similarly situated.

The United States Sentencing Commission was established to promulgate guidelines to be used by the federal courts when determining the sentence to be imposed in a criminal case, and appropriate ranges for sentences. Many states also have sentencing guidelines, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

How Do Sentencing Guidelines Work?

The federal Sentencing Guidelines are the equivalent of legislative rules adopted by federal agencies; because they determine what sentences individual defendants receive, they have the force and effect of law. Having this effect, the Sentencing Guidelines must be construed as if they constitute a statute, applying the standard rules of statutory construction, such as giving the words used their common meaning, absent a clearly expressed manifestation of contrary intent.

The commentary in the federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual that interprets or explains a guideline is authoritative, unless it violates the Constitution or a federal statute, or is inconsistent with, or a plainly erroneous reading of, that guideline, and a court must interpret the text of the Guidelines in accordance with the commentary.

Speak to experienced federal defense lawyer Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini if you have questions about the federal sentencing guidelines or if you have been charged with a serious federal crime. Contact us at 717-827-4074 or 866-765-0706.

Breaking News On Sentencing Guidelines

If you were sentenced for crack cocaine, there is a federal provision that allows you to petition for modification of your sentence if you were sentenced based upon the old crack cocaine guidelines. Click the link below for the full press release.

Learn more about federal criminal charges on our Criminal Law Blog.