Federal Sentencing Commission to look into sentencing changes for white collar crimes

Readers may have heard before of the U.S. Sentencing Commission or the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The latter are rules which detail a uniform sentencing policy for federal judges to use in criminal cases. The rules are not binding on judges, but often determine how a judge will approach sentencing in a federal criminal case. The guidelines have recently undergone changes with respect to certain drug crimes, reflecting a policy change initiated by the Obama administration.

Now, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is talking about making changes to the guidelines as they apply to some white collar crimes, such as fraud. In the coming year, the commission apparently has plans to evaluate whether the sentencing guidelines are fair with respect to these crimes and whether changes could improve the guidelines in these cases.

Those who are familiar with the issue say that it is possible that changes could be forthcoming with respect to the weight given to economic loss in fraud cases. Changes in this area would mirror the changes made to sentences in drug cases, where the quantity of drugs involved has been deemphasized. Interestingly, the American Bar Association suggested such a de-emphasis back in 2013 when it proposed that judges placing more emphasis on the defendant's culpability in cases involving white collar crimes. It isn't clear yet whether there is enough momentum behind the cause to effect any changes. We'll have to wait and see.

Those who are accused of fraud or other white collar crimes, of course, have need of an experienced attorney to help them build a solid defense case. In addition to presenting a solid case at trial, a skilled attorney can help keep sentencing to a minimum. Federal sentencing guidelines are, after all, not mandatory and a skilled attorney can sometimes be instrumental in reducing the consequences of conviction.

Source: Myfoxtampabay.com, "Sentencing panel to weigh economic crime penalties," Eric Tucker, August 14, 2014.

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