How to Argue for Lower Federal Sentences in Texas
Defendants facing federal criminal charges in Texas often face the prospect of stringent, lengthy prison sentences imposed under rigid federal sentencing guidelines. However, federal defense attorneys well-versed in guidelines and rules know how to argue for reduced sentences on behalf of their clients in appropriate cases. Here are some of the most important strategies used by adept lawyers to potentially lower federal sentences in Texas cases.
Plea Bargain Agreements
Engaging in thorough pre-trial negotiations with federal prosecutors to secure favorable plea bargain agreements is a critical first step. Well-crafted plea deals will contain specific sentencing recommendations to the judge for a lower sentence than guidelines advise or than the defendant would likely receive if convicted at trial.
While Texas federal judges make the final sentencing decision, recommendations from the prosecution in a plea agreement carry substantial influence. Agreeing to a reasonable plea deal early on with a lighter recommended sentence often makes more strategic sense than taking a case to trial and risking a higher sentence if convicted.
Challenging Enhancements and Aggravators
Under the federal sentencing process, prosecutors will claim all possible sentencing enhancements and aggravating factors that are available under the guidelines to significantly ratchet up the recommended sentencing range. However, experienced defense counsel can vigorously scrutinize the presentencing report and dispute the validity and factual applicability of certain sentencing enhancements as they pertain to their specific client’s case.
Keeping questionable or excessive enhancements off of a defendant’s final guideline calculation can drastically lower their overall sentence exposure and odds of upward variance at sentencing.
Highlighting Mitigating Factors
A criminal defense lawyer can identify and strongly present any mitigating factors or circumstances related to the defendant’s background, the context of the alleged crime, or other considerations that could persuade the judge to impose a more lenient, downward-variant sentence than guidelines recommend.
Details provided such as the defendant’s history of mental illness or substance abuse struggles, lack of adequate parental guidance as a youth, service to the community, or excessive peer pressure and lack of criminal sophistication could justify a lower sentence if competently presented to the judge at sentencing.
Providing Substantial Assistance
For certain complex federal cases involving multiple defendants, such as drug trafficking conspiracies, federal prosecutors may agree to recommend lighter sentences in exchange for a defendant providing substantial assistance to the government. This substantial assistance usually involves cooperating against any co-defendants by providing truthful testimony or information used to build cases against them.
If deemed sufficiently helpful to prosecutors, a defendant’s cooperation earns a recommendation for a reduced sentence, especially when combined with a beneficial plea agreement. Federal judges tend to respect defendants who cooperate fully and demonstrate true accountability for their actions.
Attacking Weak Convictions
Another impactful strategy used at sentencing is scrutinizing any weak or questionable convictions won in multi-count federal indictments and mounting legal arguments for why they should be set aside and vacated.
If the defense can succeed in getting one or more tenuous convictions dismissed, it lowers the defendant’s final aggregate sentence under the intricate federal guidelines rules, since fewer counts of conviction result in a lower offense level and reduced guideline range. Each conviction reversed is one less that will factor into the final score that determines the defendant’s sentence calculation.
Contact a Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer
While federal sentencing guidelines and procedures are undoubtedly complex and impose strict standards, working closely with a Texas federal defense attorney from the very start of a case is beneficial to strengthen your case. Call The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. at 214-303-9600 to start with your free consultation.