Sentencing in Federal Court for drug trafficking and other federal crimes often require federal judges to give minimum mandatory sentences. This is because federal judges do not have as much discretion as federal prosecutors.
The very process of how federal criminal cases proceed allows the federal prosecutor often shapes the final sentencing results long before the federal judge is even assigned to the case. In grand jury proceedings prosecutors are permitted but not judges nor defense attorneys. Prosecutors mold the grand jury deliberations by defining for the grand jury the nature of criminal violations charged in the indictment. Prosecutors decide very early if the grand jury should trigger the minimum mandatory sentencing provisions of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. That early decision will effect how the case will later be decided.
Once the federal indictment is unsealed and an arrest of the defendant is made, then the defendant is confronted with a stark choice. Should the defendant co-operate and plead guilty to the charge or should the charge be tested thru a trial by jury. Should the defendant choose to fight the charges he will likely be forced to wait in jail for his trial because by definition any drug or weapons charge that triggers a minimum mandatory sentence forces a federal magistrate to make a finding under the law that the defendant is not only a threat to the community but a flight risk.
If the defendant decides to plead guilty again a federal prosecutor with help from a federal agency such as the FBI or the DEA, will have the ultimate decision as to whether the case justifies going under the minimum mandatory sentence.
The defendant is given an opportunity to give a proffer. In the proffer he must answer truthfully in assisting the prosecutor in making further indictments and arrests. The prosecutor has sole discretion as to whether the defendant was truthful, honest and useful. Ultimately the prosecutor must file a motion for substantial assistance known as a 5k motion (or known as a Rule 35 motion if made after the initial sentencing). The federal judge can not entertain a motion for substantial assistance unless the prosecutor files the appropriate motion because under federal law the judge only has jurisdiction when and if the federal prosecutors file.
Clearly, federal judges should be given much more discretion to give fair sentences under the strict minimum mandatory requirements and under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. But until that happens your criminal defense lawyer must understand how to adjust, attack and benefit from the framework of the guidelines to achieve the best results. It’s important to find an attorney who understands the grand jury process, how prosecutorial decisions are made and the criteria for sentencing among federal district court judges in the Middle District of Florida to find the best ways to avoid the guideline ranges and provide the judge with better sentencing options.
Don’t let the threat of a federal indictment or the possibility of a long federal prison sentence ruin your life. Attorney Robert Hambrick has handled many successful federal criminal cases in the Middle District of Florida. Robert can help you make the most important decisions of your life in dealing with the federal criminal justice system to achieve a result that will let you move forward with your life.