The prospect of attending a DC federal bribery sentencing hearing is often nerve-racking for defendants. The penalties for bribery can vary wildly, and many people are unsure what outcome to expect when they walk into court.
Thankfully, a dedicated criminal defense attorney could help you understand your situation. They could serve as an advocate during the sentencing hearing and fight for a positive outcome to your case.
The first step in the DC federal bribery sentencing process is the pre-sentence report that is prepared by a probation officer after a finding of guilt at trial or after someone enters a guilty plea in a bribery case. The report is based on an interview by the probation officer with the client and their attorney. The discussion covers the person’s life, their education, family, upbringing, work history, and any history of substance abuse. The probation officer verifies all the information that is provided.
For example, if someone claims they graduated from college in 1988, the probation officer confirms that. The probation officer contacts the school, obtains diplomas, gets proof of employment, et cetera. That information and the evidence introduced at a trial or the facts used in a guilty plea are considered by the probation officer when doing a United States Sentencing Guidelines analysis. The probation officer prepares a draft that is provided to the defense, the government, and the judge. There is an opportunity for the defense and the government to make objections, corrections, additions, or deletions. They make proposals for those changes with respect to the report.
The defense and the government do their own guidelines analyses. Before the sentencing hearing, they provide their proposals in writing along with other memoranda to the court. At a sentencing hearing, the court makes a decision about the sentence.
The sentencing guidelines are advisory, so the judge can go upwards or downwards from the advisory guidelines range. Once the guidelines range is established at a sentencing hearing, the parties make arguments pursuant to factors laid out in 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a) to advocate to the court about whether the court should go up from the guidelines, down from the guidelines, or stay within the guidelines.
Factors in Section 3553(a) are:
Deterrence includes the message that needs to be sent to the public generally. Does the defendant in the case at hand need further deterrence aside from the conviction that is being handed down? What type of message should be sent to the defendant? Another factor reviewed by the judge when making a sentencing decision is the provision of any treatment, and/or training or education for the defendant.
The federal sentencing guidelines have built-in enhancements in bribery cases that state-level sentencing guidelines may not have. One of the most important guidelines is the public official enhancement. If someone is deemed to be a public official and accepts a bribe, there is a huge enhancement intended to discourage public officials from taking bribes. In many federal cases, the money amount drives the potential sentence. That is true in bribery cases to a certain extent. Of equal importance is whether someone is a public official.
There are no mandatory minimum sentences in bribery cases unless identity theft. Aggravated identity theft has a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Someone charged with a federal crime such as bribery should have the services of a lawyer who is experienced in bribery cases to represent them throughout the case, including the DC federal bribery sentencing hearing, if the case comes to that stage. In bribery cases, it is important to have a lawyer who is familiar with the recent changes in the law. An experienced, hardworking defense attorney has more opportunities for success given the specific facts of the case.
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