Once someone has been convicted of a crime in federal court, the judge must pass a sentence.  This sentence can include imprisonment, a fine, or both.  The process judges use to determine sentences is fairly standard in the federal court system.

First, the judge will consider the federal sentencing guidelines.  These guidelines consider the seriousness of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history, and provide a recommended sentencing range.  After a Supreme Court decision in 2005 these guidelines are no longer mandatory, but they are still very influential with most federal judges.

Next, the parties involved can ask for a sentence different from that recommended by the federal guidelines.  For example, the prosecution can ask for a longer sentence if the facts of the crime seem particularly terrible.  On the other hand, the defense can argue that a shorter sentence is appropriate because the defendant is unlikely to commit another crime.

Once hearing these arguments, the judge will make a decision and pass a sentence.  This decision can be appealed to the next court, where the sentence is reviewed to make sure that it was reasonable.

If you have questions about federal sentencing, you may want to consider consulting with a criminal defense lawyer.  An attorney experienced in using the federal court system can answer your questions and provide you with further resources.