We've written before about federal sentencing guidelines and how they are advisory and not mandatory. Still, federal judges tend to treat the guidelines as if they are mandatory, and defendants end up facing long prison sentences as a result. However, it is possible in some cases to negotiate for a variance from the guidelines.
A defendant in Pittsburgh was recently unable to negotiate for a reduced sentence after being convicted in federal court of heroin possession with intent to deliver. A major factor in the judge's decision was the defendant's previous criminal convictions, which brought into play a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.
In 2002 the 39-year-old man was given a life sentence for his alleged role in a major drug operation in Western Pennsylvania. But seven years later, that life sentence was changed by a federal judge to time served, and the man was able to enter into a work program. Documents about the sentence reduction were sealed.
The man was reportedly working for Coca-Cola last year, but later in the year he was arrested for a weapons violation. Then, in April 2013, authorities arrested him while he was apparently in possession of about 100 grams of heroin.
His most recent sentence might have only been about six years in prison, but the judge went with the mandatory minimum of 10 years. During the hearing, the judge stated that the "sentence was pretty much predetermined."
Depending on the circumstances in a criminal case, it may still be possible to convince a judge that a reduced sentence is the appropriate ruling. To learn more about defending against federal charges and negotiating in criminal cases, please visit our criminal defense pages.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Heroin dealer from North Side crew blows second chance, sent back to prison," Rich Lord, Dec. 3, 2013