Federal Sentencing Guidelines

San Francisco, CaliforniaFederal Sentencing Guidelines Lawyer

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a set of rules federal courts
use in determining the appropriate sentence for defendants convicted
of criminal offenses. Originally, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines
were mandatory. However, the Supreme Court recently ruled that courts
were not obligated to follow the guidelines. Still, most courts apply
or at least consider the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in sentencing a

To decide on an appropriate sentence for a convicted defendant, a
judge following the guidelines must first determine:
1) the Offense Level, and
2) the Criminal History Category.

The Offense Level is a number which represents the severity of the
crime. A high number corresponds to a serious crime (i.e., murder),
and a small number suggests a lesser crime (i.e., simple drug
possession). Aside from the type of the crime, the Offense Level may
be lower or higher based on aggravating and mitigating circumstances
of the crime. Aggravating factors relate to additional bad conduct
associated with the crime, such as membership in a gang or possession
of a prohibited weapon. On the other hand, mitigating factors include
acting under duress, diminished capacity of the defendant, and
voluntary admission of an undiscovered crime, among others.

The Criminal History Category number represents the convicted
defendant's criminal past. The more prior convictions a defendant
has, the higher his Criminal History Category number.

After identifying the Offense Level and Criminal History Category, the
judge then looks to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines' Sentencing
Table. For every combination of Offense Level and Criminal History
Category, the table suggests a range of appropriate sentences. For
example, an Offense Level of 6 and a Criminal History Category of III,
the table would suggest a sentence of 6-12 months. The judge would
then determine the exact sentence within that range.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are very complex and controversial.
A prosecutor will often manipulate the Offense Level and Criminal
History Category numbers to try and get a harsher sentence. A
defendant needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to interpret
and correctly apply the guidelines, which can take years off a

Contact Seth P. Chazin, he has extensive experience interpreting and applying the
guidelines, using them to his clients' advantage. With over 20 years
of courtroom experience, Mr. Chazin offers his clients the best chance
of avoiding or minimizing jail time.

The Law Office


Seth P. Chazin is a San Francisco Bay Area Criminal Defense Lawyer with over 25 years experience.

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Seth P. Chazin is recognized by Super Lawyer. Super Lawyers® is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. This recognition is earned only by the top 5% of attorneys in the state. The selection process for Super Lawyers has many steps and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. To learn more about the selection process, click here.