Addressing sentencing of fraud under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, P.1
Sentencing is an important aspect of any criminal cases, and is a time when effective advocacy can have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome of a case. Judges have discretion to consider a variety of factors when issuing sentences, and there is a lot of room for defendants to advocate for themselves and potentially influence the outcome of their case.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, sentencing for fraud charges depends partly on the amount of money involved, typically the loss to victims. The approach was established as a way to achieve equality in sentencing, and economic loss seems to be an objective measure.
The problem, as some have pointed out, is that there are many factors that go into the dollar amounts involved in fraud schemes and using them as a basis for sentencing equality is somewhat precarious from the standpoint of sentencing equality.
Since the sentencing guidelines were ruled in 2006 to be non-binding, judges have become freer to exercise judicial discretion in their use of the guidelines, meaning they may depart from the outcome the guidelines would provide if they feel circumstances warrant a different outcome.
In some cases, those convicted of fraud have been served with rather lenient sentences in light of the circumstances. That being said, the guidelines do exercise a significant influence in most cases and it is important for defendants to be prepared to address the guidelines in the sentencing process to ensure full and effective advocacy.