When someone is convicted of a federal crime, their sentence is determined by using a set of guidelines where “points” are added or taken away with relation to aspects of their conduct and the crime or crimes involved. In recent times, these guidelines for sentencing white collar criminals has come under review, with penalties increasing in severity, especially in certain fraud cases. A criminal defense lawyer may have some new guidelines to research.
Some feel that the guidelines in white collar cases rely to heavily on the financial-loss calculations. The financial-loss calculations have been known to be very large, sometimes mushrooming to enormous amounts. This happens especially in cases where public companies have seen declines in their stock price due to fraudulent acts of others.
The US Sentencing Commission, which is responsible for writing the guidelines and was created by Congress in the 1980’s, will review the economic crime rules and will get feedback on changes at a symposium this month. Some federal judges feel that the guidelines for sentencing white collar crimes should be completely re-vamped.
One example involves fraud cases, where “putting heavy emphasis on the calculated loss in determining fraud sentences does not fairly convey the reality of the crime or the criminal.” Some judges would like to replace the calculation system for sentencing fraud cases with a system where the judges would use a wide array of factors to determine the sentence. Judges also feel that none of those factors should “automatically carry extra weight.”
In fact, some judges seem to be departing from the guidelines already. Statistics show that federal judges had given sentences below the guideline recommendation in 23% of the cases from 2007 to 2011. Some feel that this is not helping win the battle against crime and that “certainty in sentencing is critical to reducing crime.” Thankfully, the Justice Department is in support of the fraud guideline review and potential revisions being made.
Some would argue that the reason penalties for white collar crimes has increased is due to the Enron scandal and Jeff Skilling’s 24-year sentence for committing fraud and conspiracy. Although Skilling’s sentence fell within his guideline calculation, he is now being resentenced due to the appellate court’s determination that a mistake had been made in the initial calculation. The Judge in his resentencing may decide to go for a higher sentence, or a lower one.
A good federal criminal defense lawyer will help you in many ways, including discussing your legal options, determining facts and aspects of your case which may work in your favor, uncovering potential problems that can be foreseen and by letting you know what to expect at the different stages of the process.
Having the support of a skilled criminal defense lawyer is beneficial because it can provide security that you are dealing with someone who has the legal knowledge and experience necessary to ensure the best chance of having your case defended properly. Call a South Carolina criminal defense lawyer at The Mace Firm to schedule your free consultation.