Understanding the Federal Sentencing GuidelinesBase Levels: The sentencing guidelines take into account the seriousness of the crime as well as the criminal history of the defendant. There are 43 levels of offenses; the more serious the crime, the higher the offense level. Each crime has been assigned a base level.
Specific Offense Characteristics: There are specific offense characteristics that can increase or decrease the base level. For example, a robbery has a base level of 20; however, if the offender brandished a firearm during the robbery, there is a 5 level increase, bringing the crime to a base level 25.
Adjustments: There are also adjustments that can be made to the base level offense as well. For example, if the offender was a minimal participant the base level can be decreased. On the other hand, if the offender obstructed justice, the base level is increased. Other modifications can be made for things such as if the offender accepts responsibility.
Criminal History: The sentencing guidelines take into account the offenders criminal history and places them into 6 different categories. Category I is the least serious and includes many first time offenders. Category VI is the most serious and includes those with substantial criminal records.
Sentences outside the guideline range. There are many factors that can constitute reasons to depart from the guideline range. Additional factors are unique to each case and should be discussed with legal counsel.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines