Criminal Defense

What is a Federal Sentencing Memorandum?

June 12, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  Federal Crime  
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What is a Federal Sentencing Memorandum?

Criminal defense lawyers write federal sentencing memorandums to convince the judge to give their client the most lenient sentence possible during the hearing. Federal practitioners can achieve a significant impact by doing this, which often influences the judge significantly.

The memorandum, known as a sentencing memo, provides a comprehensive account of the defendant’s background, such as their struggles, life history, and other factors that could have influenced any unwise decisions they made, including the crime in question.

The court will refer to three reports to determine the correct sentence. The document highlights the defendant’s favorable traits and provides context on their health, mental health, drug issues, and troubled family relationships. Two additional documents are the probation report and the prosecutor’s memo for sentencing.

All three papers detail the wrongdoing, type, and context of the incidents. The defense presents the offense in the defendant’s best interest. The P.S.R. and prosecutor’s memo have contrasting views on the offense.

Before imposing a sentence, the judge examines the defendant’s P.S.R., memos from both parties, and character references. Representation by a lawyer is crucial if you’re looking at a federal sentence.

Vital elements for a successful sentencing memorandum.

Defense lawyers should prioritize mitigating their cases.

Many factors about the defendant can be presented to the judge during sentencing regarding the defendant and the offense, which may reduce the severity of the punishment. These include:

  • Age and health.
  • Psychological well-being
  • Substance misuse
  • Bad upbringing
  • Past good acts
  • The defendant had a minor involvement in the crime.
  • Defendant’s actions were influenced by significant external pressure.
  • The offense caused minimal or negligible harm.

Precision rather than exaggeration

A wise judge can easily recognize the strategy of pounding the fist on the counsel table to compensate for the lack of legal or factual support. A more effective way is to present mitigating circumstances grounded in the case’s facts.

Being rebuked by a prosecutor in court for delivering a deceptive or misleading mitigation argument is a terrible outcome.

Precedent convinces.

Knowing that something has been done before makes it easier to do or choose. Judges share the same characteristic. Judges may consider a more lenient sentence in your case if they are aware of a previous instance in which a similar verdict was given.

Use legal authority to support your proposed sentence in the memorandum without hesitation. Previous instances of similar mitigating factors being recognized by other courts can increase the likelihood of your judge easily adopting your suggestions.

The Strength of the Principle of Parsimony.

Courts must impose sentences that fulfill the purposes of sentencing without being excessive, according to the parsimony principle under Title 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). Incorporate statutory purposes of criminal sentencing when crafting your sentencing memorandum.

By acknowledging that a sentence should reflect the gravity of the crime and promote deterrent and legal reverence, you demonstrate to the court that your suggestions align with the goals of sentencing. Connecting with the statutory purpose adds credibility to your sentencing recommendation.

You can also use defendant-friendly sentencing purposes like “avoiding unjustified sentencing differences” to caution the court against excessive punishment.

Factors assessed by judges when reviewing federal sentencing memorandums

Judges must consider specific aspects when deciding on the sentence for a case as per Title 18 U.S.Code § 3553. The code requires the court to impose a sentence that meets the set purposes without going beyond what is necessary. This is by taking into account the following:

  • The offense and the defendant’s background and characteristics.
  • The sentence should show the severity of the crime, earn respect for the law, punish fairly, deter criminal activity, shield the public, and educate and train.
  • Types of sentences offered.
  • Required equivalent sentencing for defendants in comparable positions.
  • Restitution for the victim is necessary.

Submit your Sentencing Memorandum at least one week before the Sentencing Hearing.

Judges usually come to sentencing hearings with a predetermined sentence in mind. Judges probably know their next move upon reviewing the presentence report.

Picture having the ability to present your case to the judge while deliberating on possible sentencing outcomes, providing you with greater confidence in your defense. The more promptly you present your sentencing memorandum to the judge, the more assured you will feel about it. The exact purpose of the sentencing memorandum is to accomplish just that.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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