There are many differences between state and federal crimes: the types of offenses which are involved, how and where prosecution occurs, and perhaps most importantly for defendants, the length of the prison sentences resulting from conviction. In many cases, federal convictions receive much harsher penalties than convictions for Pennsylvania state crimes, and defendants who are found guilty may find themselves facing years or even decades of incarceration.  However, as our criminal defense attorneys will explain in this article, certain offenders may be able to shorten their sentences with something called a Rule 35 reduction.

If your loved one was convicted of a federal crime like fraud or money laundering, there may be good news: in certain cases, federal sentences do have the potential to be shortened with something called a Rule 35 sentence reduction.

Rule 35 sentence reductions take their name from Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Correcting or Reducing a Sentence), which sets forth several scenarios in which federal sentences may be modified.  Of course, there are necessary provisions for cases where the court makes an “arithmetical, technical, or other clear error” – but what about cases where no error occurred?

In accordance with Rule 35(1), “the court may reduce a sentence [within one year of sentencing] if the defendant, after sentencing, provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.”  In simpler terms, you can potentially shorten your sentence if you helped the government.  Under Rule 35(3), pre-sentencing substantial assistance rendered by the defendant seeking the reduction may be considered.

“Substantial assistance” is not clearly defined by Rule 35.  However, substantial assistance could include factors like testifying against co-defendants, or providing information which could be used to obtain a guilty plea or guilty verdict.  From the government’s perspective, the more defendants are willing to cooperate with prosecutors and investigators, the less time, money, and resources need be dedicated to a trial.

Rule 35(1) says substantial assistance may be considered provided the motion was made within one year of sentencing.  Does that mean defendants who fall outside that time period are out of luck?

Not necessarily: Rule 35(2) makes special provisions for cases where motions were made after one year.  However, in order for Rule 35(2) to apply, the substantial assistance must have involved one of the following factors:

Hands Behind Bars

Believe it or not, in some instances Rule 35 sentencing reductions can be utilized to reduce mandatory minimums, provided the prosecutor agrees.  Certain sentences can even be reduced to probation, which typically does not involve any incarceration at all.

One exception to this general rule is called shock probation, in which the defendant serves a short sentence for its deterrent “shock” value prior to being released, hence the name.  The concept of split sentencing is similar from a practical standpoint, with the key difference being that the judge announces that probation will eventually be granted.  By comparison, shock probation is not offered until the inmate has already served 30, 60, or 90 days in prison.

Only the prosecuting attorney may file a Rule 35 motion or § 5K1.1 motion, named for § 5K1.1 of the United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  However, it is crucially important to get help from a defense attorney when seeking a sentence reduction.  Your attorney will advocate on your behalf if the prosecutor decides that your assistance was not sufficiently “substantial,” or believes he or she needs more information before making a decision.

Whether you’ve been charged with federal crimes or wish to fight a conviction by going through the criminal appeals process, the criminal defense lawyers of Krasner & Long can help.  Our knowledgeable legal team has over 40 years of experience handling white collar crimes and other serious felonies, and we feel our results speak for themselves. To give just one example, attorney Lloyd Long recently obtained a not guilty verdict in the largest Federal indictment in history in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  More than 60 attorneys were working on the case, yet only Lloyd Long was able to obtain an acquittal.

To set up a free and private legal consultation, call the law offices of Krasner & Long right away at (215) 882-9752.  We proudly serve clients throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area and the state of Pennsylvania, and will keep your information confidential.

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