Federal sentences tend to be much longer than state sentences, and there is no parole. A defendant facing sentencing in federal court therefore needs an experienced attorney who is willing to put in the time it takes to put together a convincing case for the lowest sentence possible.
Since 1989, my practice has focused on federal plea negotiations and post-conviction defense – including sentencing. Because I handle only a few cases at a time, I can devote the time it takes to do my best for each client. And because I have a highly focused practice, I am able to offer the quality of work normally associated with big firms, but with the personal attention and affordability expected from a small firm.
My office is located in suburban Philadelphia, but I handle sentencings throughout the United States.
If you or a loved one is facing sentencing in federal court, please call (610) 649-8200, or click here to send an e-mail to discuss how I can help.
Frequently asked questions
What factors must a judge consider before imposing sentence?
The law requires a district court to impose the shortest sentence necessary to meet certain goals, such as "just punishment," deterrence, protecting the public, and providing the defendant with needed training, treatment, or care. To determine the minimally sufficient sentence, the judge must "consider" seven factors: the "nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant," the purposes of sentencing, "the kinds of sentences available," the sentencing range recommended by the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("guidelines"), the policy statements issued by the United States Sentencing Commission, "the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among similar defendants," and the need to provide restitution to the victims.
What are the United States Sentencing Guidelines and what role do they play in sentencing?
The United States Sentencing Guidelines are rules which federal courts use to determine a recommended sentencing range in each case. A range is expressed in months – 21-27 months, for example. Before January 12, 2005, courts were in most cases required to impose sentence within the guideline range. A Supreme Court case called United States v. Booker changed that. Now a federal court must calculate and consider the sentencing range – but it does not have to impose sentence within that range. Although the guidelines are only advisory now, they still play an important role, since they are the starting point for determining the sentence.
What are mandatory minimum sentences?
Some criminal statutes require a court to impose a sentence that is no less than a particular number of years. When a mandatory minimum sentence applies, a court must impose a sentence that is at least that long. For example, if a statute provides for a maximum of life imprisonment, but a mandatory minimum of ten years, the court must impose at least a ten-year sentence, but may impose as much as life imprisonment.
Can a federal sentence run concurrently with a state sentence?
Yes – if the federal judge states in the judgment that the sentence will run concurrently with a particular state sentence. When two sentences run concurrently, the time a defendant serves is credited to both sentences. When two sentences run consecutively, a defendant must complete the first sentence before any time is credited to the second sentence.
Will a defendant receive credit for time served prior to the imposition of sentence?
A defendant will receive credit for time served prior to the imposition of sentence so long as the prior custody was because of the offense for which sentence is being imposed and so long as that time was not credited to another sentence.
Can a defendant appeal a sentence?
Yes. Unless a defendant waives the right to appeal, it is possible to appeal a sentence. And even when a defendant has waived the right to appeal, there are circumstances under which he or she can appeal the sentence.
Links to Articles Relevant to Sentencing
"Intended Loss" Redefined in Fraud Cases (with Alan Ellis), Criminal Justice, Spring, 2009
Federal Sentencing Under the Advisory Guidelines: A Primer for the Occasional Federal Practitioner – Part Two (with Alan Ellis), The Champion, December 2008
Federal Sentencing Under the Advisory Guidelines: A Primer for the Occasional Federal Practitioner – Part One (with Alan Ellis), The Champion, July 2008
Supreme Court Finally Fulfills Promise of Booker (with Alan Ellis), Criminal Justice, Spring 2008
Representing the White Collar Client in a Post-Booker World (With Alan Ellis), The Champion, September/October, 2005
Litigating in a Post-Booker World (With Alan Ellis and Karen Landau), Criminal Justice, Spring, 2005
Baker's Dozen: Federal Sentencing Tips for the Experienced Advocate, Part II (With Alan Ellis and Karen Landau), Criminal Justice, Spring, 2001
Apprehending and Appreciating Apprendi (With Alan Ellis, Peter Goldberger, and Karen Landau), Criminal Justice, Winter, 2001
Representing the White Collar Client at Sentencing (With Alan Ellis), Criminal Justice, Winter, 2000
Links to Selected Judicial Opinions
Links to Other Resources