How does the sentencing table work? Part - I

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:51 AM

How does the sentencing table work?

The table is used to tabulate a person’s prison sentence according to his or her crime and past criminal behavior. You can find this table in The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual. You can also look at a copy of it here in Mad Dog’s Guide to Club Fed.

The sentencing table took effect on November 1, 1987. It was designed to make the sentencing process more uniform by giving similar sentences for similar crimes. At the same time, this new system abolished parole and substantially reduced time off for good behavior. The sentence ranges listed in the table are based upon mandatory minimum time frames. Detailed information about specific crimes and their mandatory sentences are found in an annual publication, The Federal Criminal Code and Rules Books.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manuel consists of over a thousand pages of instructions on how to apply the sentencing Table. The table, itself, is a grid of six vertical columns of number pairs.  Each set of numbers, separated by a dash, represents a range of months. This time range is the flexibility that a judge has to work within to determine a defendant’s sentence.

A sentence range is arrived at by rating and correlating two main components which characterize a criminal. These components are: the seriousness of a person’s current crimes (known as his or her offense level) and the person’s criminal history. The intersection of these two components on the grid will yield the sentence range in months.

The first component, Base offense Level, is formulated by finding a number value that defines the criminal’s degree of “badness”. Down the left side of the Sentencing Table are the possible offense levels. A number scale of severity signifies these levels. The bottom number, forty-three, is the most serious level.

To estimate your base offense level, look up (in The Federal Sentencing Guideline Manual) each crime with which you are being charged. Each criminal category (described in the guidelines) contains instructions which explain what number value applies. The numbers for each charge are added up to give the Base Offense Level. 

The Morales Law Firm would like to thank Mad Dogs guide to Club Fed (Instruction Manuel for Newcomers) for sharing this information with us.

Sentencing Table

Tags: defendant, judge, prison, sentence, crime