This guide is intended to provide basic information about federal sentencing laws.
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Sentencing for federal crimes is accomplished through statutes and with consideration of the federal sentencing guidelines. Some resources that may help to clarify sentencing laws include:
Statutes for Specific Crimes:
Many federal criminal statutes are found in 18 U.S. Code Part I. These statutes generally have sentencing provisions, such as maximum possible penalties. Other criminal statutes may be found elsewhere, such as those for controlled substances, in 21 U.S. Code Part D.
Sentencing Statutes Generally:
Many statutes related to sentencing are found in 18 U.S. Code Part II - Criminal Procedure. Some potentially useful statutes include:
18 U.S. Code Chapter 227 - Sentences (including, but not limited to):
The federal sentencing guidelines consider the category of the criminal offense and the category of the defendant and provide parameters for sentencing. They are developed by the United States Sentencing Commission, which is an independent agency that has the authority to make these guidelines under 28 USC 994(a)(1). The Guidelines are not mandatory, but must be considered by judges when determining a sentence.
Case law also plays an important role in federal sentencing. The United States Sentencing Commission has created an extensive list of Supreme Court cases on sentencing issues, with summaries.
USSC Supreme Court Cases on Sentencing Issues (January 2014).
United States Sentencing Commission: 2013 Guidelines Manual
United States Sentencing Commission: 2016 Guidelines Manual
Introduction to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines - Video
Defender Services Offices: Introduction to Federal Sentencing
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