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The Guidelines are still important. The Court must look at the Guidelines when imposing a sentence. Further, the Pre-Sentence Investigation will be almost entirely focused on what the Guidelines say in terms of sentencing. Therefore, it is important to have a lawyer who is familiar with the Guidelines and who will look at each and every factor that impacts a potential sentence.
In determining a Guideline score, many factors will be looked at, such as criminal history, the specific acts associated with the charge, along with factors specific to the criminal charge that impact the Guidelines. It is advisable to employ a private Pre-Sentence Reporter in order to be prepared to address issue in a Pre-Sentence Report that are in disagreement.
Sentencing is crucial in any criminal matter. Due to the fact that the vast percentage of criminal cases in the federal system wind up in sentencing, it is even more important to spend extra time on sentencing issues. The Pre-Sentence Report must be responded to and the 3553 factors in every case must be briefed and presented to the Court. Sentencing cannot be taken as a minor event because much can be done at sentencing to lessen the impact of a sentence.
As Federal Criminal Sentencing has changed over the years, the necessity to stay up-to-date and current with caselaw is increasingly important. Now, in the wake of the United States Sentencing Guidelines becoming advisory and not mandatory, a number of cases have worked their way through the Appellate Courts and the Supreme Court. The general propositions of Federal Criminal Sentencing is now clear - Judges can disagree with the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines and they must be allowed to do so in order to make the Guidelines advisory rather than mandatory. Thus, sentencing is far more "open" than it used to be and Defendant's have the ability to object to Guidelines by pointing out, among other things, that the applicable Guideline is not based on "empirical data or national experience."