South Carolina Federal Sentencing

Most individuals convicted of a federal crime will serve some time incarcerated. The question is, for how long? While the federal criminal justice system relies on strictly followed guidelines, the answer is not as simple as matching the crime to a preset number of years. Various factors contribute to the final sentence, and defendants must actively demonstrate the need for leniency from the court.

With your freedom on the line, guidance from a lawyer well-versed in South Carolina federal sentencing could be crucial to achieving the best possible outcome. Get in touch with a seasoned defense attorney at our office to learn more.

The Process of Being Sentenced for a Federal Crime in South Carolina

After a conviction or plea deal, a judge will schedule a hearing to determine a defendant’s sentence. The judge will review the pre-sentence investigation report (PSR) prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. Also presented are the sentencing memorandum and arguments from both the prosecution and defense attorneys, victim statements, character letters or statements on behalf of the defendant, and a personal statement by the defendant if they choose to address the court.

After considering all this information, the judge will enter the defendant’s sentence. The punishment ordered is final unless overturned on appeal, so it is crucial that defendants retain counsel well-informed about federal sentencing. Without this experience on their side, they may serve harsher punishment than necessary.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines Established by Law

One of the key pieces of information provided in the PSR and considered by the judge is the sentencing guidelines calculation. This presumptive sentencing range identified in the report is based on the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual.

This very detailed manual includes a Sentencing Table on page 407 that illustrates how the level of the violation and the person’s criminal history interplay to determine the recommended amount of time a person spends behind bars. The chart divides offenses into 43 levels. Level one infractions receive zero to six months in prison, and Level 43 crimes lead to a life sentence. The table also assigns a person’s criminal history points that correspond to one of four categories. The higher the offense level and the greater the number of criminal history points, the longer the presumptive sentencing range.

As this range is a starting point for the judge’s consideration, it is vital for defendants to work with South Carolina counsel who understands the other factors that could affect federal sentencing. With skilled legal assistance, those facing federal sentencing may develop a solid strategy for convincing the judge to order the minimum sentence possible under the circumstances.

Factors Impacting the Federal Sentence Imposed

The United States Code, Title 18, Section 3553 directs sentencing judges to impose reasonable punishments that meet the crime but are not extreme. To help in that determination, Section 3553(a) outlines the factors the judge must weigh in reaching a final federal sentence:

  • Nature and severity of the offense
  • History and characteristics of the defendant
  • Promotion of justice, respect for the law, and safety of the public
  • Education or treatment needed for the defendant
  • Available sentencing and the appropriate sentencing range
  • Policy statements by Congress
  • Avoidance of unjustified sentencing inequalities
  • Victim restitution

The PSR addresses many of these factors and guides federal sentencing, but it is incumbent on a South Carolina defendant and their defense team to address these factors before the court. Through their memorandum and arguments, the defendant must display this information in a light most favorable to their cause to secure a lighter federal sentence.

Discuss Federal Sentencing in South Carolina with a Knowledgeable Lawyer

Reaching a final sentence is a complex process in federal court. Defendants have the opportunity to impact the judge’s decision-making process, so who you select to represent you at this juncture may be decisive to the outcome. It is wise to rely on a criminal defense team knowledgeable about South Carolina federal sentencing for the best result. We are ready to guide you through this process, so reach out today to get started.