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  • What Are the Felony Sentencing Guidelines?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Judge's Gavel

    Experienced New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorneys Defending Against Felony Charges

    The sentence you receive for a criminal offense is meant to mirror the extreme nature of the crime you’ve committed. That is why there is the saying, “a punishment to fit the crime.” Felonies are notoriously harsher with their punishments, because these are more serious crimes that warrant serious punishments. To ensure that defendants serve similar punishments, the federal government and the state has employed sentencing guidelines. These are guidelines that the judge overseeing your case will consult when determining your sentence (if you are convicted).

    The Class of Felony and Sentencing

    The sentencing guidelines create a framework for judges. This allows them to compare the type of crime committed and pick the adequate sentence. Felony offenses do usually carry a minimum sentence of at least one year.

    When it comes to Federal felony crimes, there are separate classes. The maximum/minimum sentence will increase as the category goes up in level.

    These classes include:

    • Class E – These are the least serious types of crime and carry a penalty of as much as three years in prison.
    • Class D to B – These are more serious than a Class E, and can carry as many as three to 25 years in prison.
    • Class A – This is the most serious type of category and can earn a person a life without parole sentence or eligibility for the death penalty.

    Using The Federal Sentencing Guidelines

    After a defendant has been convicted, the judge will consult the Guidelines Manual and the Sentencing Table. This will allow them to see the recommended sentence and then take into account the felony class alongside the criminal defendant’s criminal history (if they have committed and been convicted of crimes in the past). From there, the judge can set a sentence based on the charts. Those with no criminal history can receive lighter sentences for their first offense, while those with multiple offenses obviously receive a harsher punishment.

    When Judges Will Deviate from the Guidelines

    Guidelines are there for judges to use, but there are instances where the judges can consider the guidelines, but not actually follow them. One of the biggest influencing factors is how the defendant was before, during, and after the crime.

    Certain actions or events will likely increase a sentence imposed by a judge, and these are known as aggravating factors. These include an abduction of a person, when one person dies, if a weapon was used, or if the victim suffered a serious injury.

    There may be mitigating factors, which do the opposite of aggravating factors. In these instances, a judge may lessen the punishment if a defendant assisted authorities in bringing others to justice, if the victim contributed to the crime, or if the defendant was forced to commit the crime under duress.

    Speak with a Criminal Attorney Regarding Your Case

    If you have been arrested for a felony, you are subject to the felony guidelines, which means that you could face a harsher prison sentence. To avoid such, you need a legal expert by your side to craft a viable defense. Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today to explore your options and discuss your case. You can schedule a free case evaluation now at 505-375-4664 or request more information through our online contact form.