In this post, we want to continue our discussion of sentencing guidelines and how an experienced attorney can help advocate for a defendant with respect to guidelines, whether at the state or federal level. We’ll wrap up this discussion by speaking briefly about downward departures.
Under both federal sentencing guidelines and Massachusetts Sentencing Guidelines, judges are given the discretion to depart from mandatory minimum sentences based on aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Under state guidelines for incarceration of drug offenses, judges are allowed to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence, provided the sentence is within the guidelines range in certain circumstances.
In order to make a downward departure in drug cases, the defendant must not have had a prior drug trafficking conviction with an offense seriousness level of 7 or 8, and the judge is required to write a statement of the reasons for the departure. Defendants who do not have a serious criminal record and who have a case where there is a substantial mitigating factor may be able to argue for a departure below the sentencing guidelines range. At the federal level, a similar principle applies with respect to mitigating factors in the sentencing guidelines.
Having a strong advocate during the sentencing phase is just as important as having a strong advocate for the rest of the criminal process. Although an advocate cannot guarantee a specific result in any case, a strong argument for departure can go a long way. Those who work with our firm can be sure that we are committed to providing the best possible advocacy for defendants all the way through sentencing.