Sentencing is a critical stage in the federal criminal process, particularly given the incredibly high rate of guilty pleas in federal court. There is a very strong argument that sentencing far eclipses the importance of the increasingly rare trial in the federal criminal system. If a federal criminal investigation cannot be “killed,” then in many cases – particularly in “white collar” cases – the focus early on for both the defense and the prosecution is the sentencing hearing, and how to maximize one’s position, because a federal charge often produces a conviction via plea, or less often, via trial. Stated otherwise, federal criminal defense is often all about sentencing.
At sentencing, sometimes defendants – and, less often, the prosecution – will make arguments regarding “similarly situated” defendants, and the sentences that they received. Sometimes these arguments resonate with the sentencing court; sometimes not. Regardless, these arguments can be tricky because reliable “statistics” are elusive, and it’s not always clear that justifiable comparisons are being drawn by either side. We therefore were interested when the U.S. Sentencing Commission (“the Commission”) recently issued the Judiciary Sentencing Information (“JSIN”) platform. Although it is difficult to draw clear conclusions from the JSIN platform, the data is nonetheless fascinating, and we discuss in this blog potential insights into sentences for money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) offenses.
We have reviewed the data and created summary charts for your consideration. Because the Commission has invited federal judges to use the JSIN platform when sentencing, it by definition is relevant to defense attorneys and prosecutors.
Continue Reading U.S. Sentencing Commission Data on Money Laundering and BSA-Related Offenses Reveals: Courts Often Sentence Below the Guidelines Range