Federal Sentencing

A judge cannot begin to consider a non-Guideline sentence under Booker or Rita unless lawyers argue for one and present evidence supporting it. —Nancy Gertner, United States District Judge

In 1987, Congress enacted the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for the determination of criminal sentences in federal courts.  For over twenty years, courts treated the Guidelines with the force of law.  In 2006, the United States Supreme Court decided United States v. Booker and ruled that the Guidelines could not constitutionally hold the force of law, but only could be viewed as advisory to the sentencing judge's determination of sentence. The United States Sentencing Commission has published this overview of the guidelines.

Since the advent of Booker, federal sentencing has become both increasingly discretionary for judges and increasingly complex for those convicted of federal crimes. As Judge Gertner puts it, though the Guidelines are now considered advisory, one can expect a Guideline sentence unless he presents the court reasons for a variance or different sentence.  Peter Smythe has over a decade of federal sentencing experience.  Representation for sentencing purposes includes an exhaustive review of case materials, attendance at presentence interviews, the research and drafting of sentencing objections and memoranda, and a compilation of mitigating sentencing materials and argument. As sentencing has become more lawyer driven, it is ever more important for a federal defendant to retain experienced counsel in sentencing matters.

It was not until after I pronounced sentence that defendant argued for something less.  Too little; too late. –Judge Nancy Gertner in United States v. Maisonet, 493 F.Supp. 2d 255 (D. P.R. 2007).

With regard to federal sentencing, we also handle ineffective assistance of counsel claims. A few samples of our work:

United States v. James Atchley. James Atchley was charged in the trafficking and distribution of ecstasy. Once charged, the government moved to detain him pending trial. After a contested hearing, Atchley was the only one out of 28 defendants released pending trial. He eventually pleaded guilty to the offense and the government argued for a sentence of twenty years imprisonment. Smythe filed a motion for variance from the sentencing guidelines which was granted and Atchley was sentenced to just six years.