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Sentencing in DC Federal Embezzlement Cases

Sentencing in DC federal embezzlement cases involves a nuanced calculation of federal guidelines, base offense levels, and various enhancements and departures. If you have been charged or convicted of federal embezzlement, you could benefit from the legal aid of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

How Are Sentences Determined?

Two main factors are used to develop the advisory guideline range in federal cases, the criminal history category and the offense level. A criminal history category is determined by identifying prior convictions a person might have and whether they were on supervised release or probation at the time an offense was committed. Once those calculations are made, a person’s criminal history category is identified.

A person’s criminal history category might be open to debate, and the judge may make the final decision on a person’s criminal history category. Also, there is an opportunity to argue that a person’s criminal history is over-represented when determining their final criminal history category. For example, if a person has five minor convictions for misdemeanors from years ago, that can sometimes inappropriately increase the person’s criminal history category. A judge may rule that the individual’s criminal history is over-represented and lower their criminal history category based on the defense attorney’s argument.

The second major factor is the offense level, which is established using a calculation identifying the base offense level and possible enhancements that add to an offense level and departures or variances that may decrease it. It is up to a federal judge to determine the final offense level.

The two factors are combined and an advisory guideline range is determined using a table that has the offense level running along the left-hand side and the criminal history category runs along the top. The different sentences make up the body of the table.

Base Offense Level for Federal Embezzlement

The base offense level is the starting point under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The sentencing guidelines are advisory. In the past, a guideline range of months was determined and was mandatory.  In other words, if a guideline range was determined to be 30 to 37 months, a judge had to sentence within that range.

That changed in 2004 when the United States Supreme Court determined that the mandatory nature of the guidelines was unconstitutional, and the guidelines became advisory. The range must still be established, but judges do not have to hand down a sentence within it; they can go above or below the range.

A base offense level is the starting point upon which enhancements, departures, or variances increase or decrease the potential offense level. For instance, depending on the specific statute for an embezzlement case, the base offense level is usually between six and eight years of incarceration.

Consult With a DC Federal Sentencing Lawyer

Certain offense characteristics could vastly increase the potential sentence under the guidelines. While a judge does not have to follow the sentencing guidelines, he or she must establish the advisory guidelines range.  However, it is often difficult for certain judges to come down significantly from that range.

For example, if a judge determines the range to be 72 to 87 months, it may be difficult to sentence the person to 6 months of imprisonment. Getting the advisory guideline range as low as possible makes it easier for a judge to take into account other factors, including:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense
  • The characteristics of the defendant
  • Deterrence – both specific and general
  • Treatment and education

An experienced defense attorney could use these factors to obtain a lower sentence for their client. If you are facing sentencing in a DC federal embezzlement case, you may need legal representation to mitigate possible penalties and best preserve your future.

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