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Former Assistant District Attorney
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

How do points play a role in federal sentencing?

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2021 | Federal Crimes

Federal crimes easily come with more serious consequences than certain offenses that only apply at the state level in Mississippi. If you have found yourself accused of a federal offense, you undoubtedly want to learn as much about your situation as possible. Any information relating to your case, your defense options and even possible consequences if convicted could be important to you.

When it comes to sentencing after a conviction for a federal crime, several aspects go into consideration. The sentencing guidelines work on a point system that includes points for the level of the offense and points associated with any prior criminal activity on your record.

How do points work?

For determining the offense level, four zones are used. Zone A represents the lowest levels with points one through eight, and Zone D represents the more serious offenses with points ranging from 14 to 43. Federal crimes also have a base offense level, meaning that a specific crime has a particular number of points assigned to it. This base level offers a starting point amount when it comes to adding points.

The criminal history also has points assigned, depending on the amount of time assigned to previous sentences, such as one point for a prior sentence of less than 60 days in jail. The points increase with longer prior sentences and other factors. If a person has zero or one point relating to criminal history, he or she would land in Category I. For 13 or more points, the court would use Category VI. The higher the category, the more likely it is for a longer sentence for the current conviction.

How is sentencing determined?

After the criminal history category and offense level have been determined, the court will use a chart to see where the person lands. For example, if a person is in Category III for criminal history and committed a level 14 offense, he or she could face anywhere between 21 and 27 months in jail. However, a level 14 offense for someone in Category I for criminal history would be 15 to 21 months.

The chart also has some sentences that are the same across the board. For instance, a conviction for first-degree murder has a sentence of life in prison for all criminal history categories.

Working toward the best outcome

Federal sentencing may seem confusing to you, and that is understandable. It can also be difficult to think about when you are facing federal charges. Fortunately, you have the right to defend against any charges you face in hopes of working toward a positive outcome.