New York white collar criminal defense attorney, Florian Miedel, shares how federal sentencing works.
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Federal sentencing is extremely important in federal criminal law because the reality is that virtually all federal cases end in some sort of guilty plea. Less than one percent of federal cases go to trial. That’s not to say that there aren’t trials and that one can be successful in fighting a federal case, one can, but the odds are that if you’re charged in a federal case, it’s going to result in some sort of negotiation, plea, and sentence. And federal sentencing is very different from most state jurisdictions, certainly different from New York where the defense and the prosecution negotiate a deal to the charge and what the sentence is going to be, it’s presented to the judge and the judges signs off on it.
In federal court, the judge maintains the ultimate authority over what the sentence will be and negotiation with the government is relatively limited in terms of sentencing possibilities. Because, essentially, a person that’s charged with violating a federal statute, that statute has a minimum and a maximum, oftentimes the minimum is no jail time and the maximum is a lot of jail time. And the judge then uses what are known as the federal sentencing guidelines to help him or her determine where in that vast range a sentence should fall.