Video: How does sentencing in federal cases work?

Federal sentencing is probably the least intuitive process for any lawyer, let alone a non-lawyer, to contemplate. If you watch a typical criminal sentence on a television show or even listen to the news, you quickly realize that many sentences are based upon an agreement between the prosecutor and a defense attorney.

For example, in the state of Texas, if somebody broke into a car, you could as a defense lawyer approach that prosecutor and say, “Hey, can we agree to a probation?” or “Hey, can we agree to ten days in jail as a sentence?” If the prosecutor agrees, you can take that agreement to a judge and 99 times out of 100, that’s the sentence that the client will get.

In the federal system, the prosecutor almost never has the authority to make an offer for a specific sentence. Instead, you go through this complicated United States guidelines computation to give a suggestion to the judge, who solely makes the sentencing decision. They suggest, “Well, you should get kind of this range,” and then the judge can go above or below it. The bottom line is the judge decides, and you have no idea until the day you’re sentenced —  one is blinded and one certain. That is probably the easiest way to explain how sentencing in federal cases work.

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We hope you found this information about sentencing in federal cases helpful. For more information on federal criminal defense, visit our federal crimes page or call us at (817) 203-2220.


Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese