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Changes coming to the federal sentencing guidelines on economic crimes, P.3

We’ve been talking about changes proposed to the federal sentencing guidelines, and particularly about how one basic aim of the changes is to give greater weight to the subjective intent of defendants when determining the appropriate sentencing range for economic offenses.

In addition to those we’ve already discussed, important changes have also been proposed to the scope of culpability for co-conspirators and the availability of a downward adjustment in cases where offenders had only a minor or minimal role in a conspiracy. Other changes have also been proposed to provide for an enhancement of the offense seriousness level where victims have suffered “substantial financial hardship,” as well as a loosening of requirements concerning the method for determining loss in securities fraud cases. 

The bottom line with many of these changes is that more weight will be given to the defendant’s subjective intent if the proposals are adopted. In a sense, the changes take into account a common criticism of the guidelines: that they remove the ability of judges to determine sentencing on a case by case basis in favor of a general standard. While that criticism could still be leveled at the guidelines even if the proposed changes go forward, there is at least some mitigation of the problem.

Navigating the federal sentencing guidelines is not necessarily an easy task, and it is important for defendants to have an advocate who will zealously advocate for their interests during the sentencing phase. Good advocacy during sentencing can be likened to the home stretch of a race, which our coaches always told us to push through to the end. Similarly, strong advocacy through the sentencing phase can make an important difference in the outcome of a case. 

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