An experienced defense attorney can have a significant impact on the federal sentencing process. By advocating for clients at all appropriate stages of a criminal case, a DC federal defense attorney can help make sure the right mitigating facts are discovered and highlighted throughout the process. The defense attorney can use these mitigating facts to argue for a below guideline sentence.
A defense attorney needs to uncover facts about the offense and the defendant that go beyond the facts asserted by the government and probation office. The facts produced by the government tend to only support the conviction, but defendants are much more than just offenders. They have families, they went to school, or they have medical or mental health issues that need to be taken into consideration at sentencing.
Depending on the facts of a particular case, the defense attorney should take a holistic approach to sentencing on behalf of the defendant so that all relevant factors that might impact a defendant’s culpability and ability to be rehabilitated. All of these factors need to be considered in light of the defendant as a person, not just as an offender.
The attorney should try to and argue for below guidelines sentence. However, the appropriate strategy depends upon the facts of the individual case. An attorney should know the defendant, know the crime that was committed and come up with an argument that is tailored to the background of the defendant in any given case.
Mitigating factors are unique to each case. Some people have very sympathetic backgrounds and that is important to highlight in a case. Some people were put in a situation where they felt they had to choose between harming themselves and committing a crime.
There are cases, for example, where people might commit fraud only after they realize that they have lost everything in a stock market and they are panicked about how they are going to take care of their family. So they resort to stealing from their employer or to compromising their position in the government by trying to sell information to a foreign country.
It is important to highlight what caused the offense to happen, which is often what judges are looking for in a case. They want to know “why” and if a person is sympathetic, it can go a long way in arguing for a mitigated and below-guideline sentence.
“The thing I find most fascinating about the federal sentencing process is the attempt to strike the right balance between the defendant being remorseful for their actions and advocacy for arguing why a sentence should be less harsh. It is not always an easy task but can be very rewarding when done right, for both the defendant and the attorney.” – DC Federal Attorney Dave Benowitz
The attorney will do most of the work preparing for sentencing. However, whenever the defense attorney has questions, it is important for the defendant to be available and to provide fuller and complete answers to the defense attorney’s inquiries about the defendant’s life. It helps the process and leads to a better end product.
The defendant will have the opportunity to speak at his or her own sentencing hearing directly to the judge. Usually a defense attorney will help to fashion a short statement about the case, feelings of remorse, and what they have learned from the process. A person wants to be able to convince the judge that they have learned their lesson and does not pose a risk to the community in the future.
Although there is no requirement to speak at sentencing, it is usually a good idea to do so.
You should look for an attorney that has experience handling federal criminal cases because they are vastly different than state level cases.
A strong work ethic is very important as well. You also might want to ask if your attorney has ever secured a below guidelines sentence for their clients in similar cases.
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