Why Are Federal Sentences More Severe?
If accused of breaking federal law, you may be reckoning with the possibility of prison time, high fines, and other penalties that could seem disproportionate to similar cases at the state level.
While state prosecutors and judges have a degree of discretion in their sentences and plea bargain negotiations, federal judges and prosecutors are often bound by statutory mandatory minimum sentences.
How Do Mandatory Minimums Affect Sentencing?
Judges and prosecutors consider many different factors before sentencing, including the defendant’s past criminal history, the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the defendant’s demeanor. However, when a statute includes mandatory minimum sentences, the discretion of judges and prosecutors goes out the window; the only way to avoid a harsh punishment is to prevent a conviction in the first place with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney.
While not all federal crimes are subject to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, those that do are more likely to carry severe penalties. Since the 1980s, mandatory minimum sentences have often been applied to drug offenses. Still, they can also apply to other federal offenses such as certain fraud crimes, weapons offenses, and child pornography charges.
If you face federal charges, you must have a defense lawyer with experience navigating federal criminal defense cases on your team. Your attorney can help you avoid mandatory minimum sentences through plea agreements, pre-charge negotiations with the prosecution, or achieving an acquittal if your case goes to trial.