There are many differences between state and federal crimes, such as 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 the conviction. In many cases, defendants who are convicted of federal offenses receive much harsher penalties than those who are convicted of Pennsylvania state crimes. Defendants who are found guilty of federal crimes may find themselves facing years or even decades of incarceration, in addition to massive fines. If you or a family member needs information about fighting a federal charge or reducing a federal sentence, you should consult with an experienced Philadelphia federal crimes lawyer. In this article, criminal defense attorney Lloyd Long explains how certain offenders may be able to shorten their sentences with a Rule 35 reduction.

What is a Rule 35 Reduction in Federal Sentencing?

According to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), offenders that aid the federal government in the prosecution of wanted criminals may be granted the opportunity to reduce their sentence if they provide “substantial assistance.” Substantial assistance is a subjective test to determine whether an offender’s aid was sufficient. A prosecutor has the discretion as to whether an offender helped enough to get a reduced sentence. Generally, if an offender testifies against another person, he or she has provided substantial assistance. An offender that only offers information may have a difficult time getting a reduced sentence, depending on the depth of the information.

There are two common methods for reducing a federal sentence. The first method is known as a “substantial assistance motion,” or a §5K1.1 motion. It is filed before the offender is sentenced and, if approved, is granted during the original sentencing. The second method arises out of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) and is performed after the offender is sentenced, which requires the offender to be resentenced.

The substantial assistance motion is a request for the sentencing court to “depart downward” under the appropriate sentencing guidelines. To depart downward means that a court is considering granting an offender a shorter sentence. There are several factors that a court may consider when determining whether an offender’s sentence should be reduced, including the following:

  • The value of the defendant’s assistance to the government, and the government’s assessment of the helpfulness of the defendant’s information
  • The veracity and dependability of testimony or information received from the defendant
  • The type of information and weight of the information the defendant provides
  • Whether the defendant or the defendant’s family is at risk because they are aiding the government
  • Whether the defendant’s information is immediately helpful

It is important to note that failure to assist the government cannot be used as an aggravating factor during sentencing.

The reason that a Rule 35 reduction is performed after an offender is convicted is that the government may need an offender to cooperate after they have been sentenced. Rule 35 reductions also operate on the substantial assistance rule. If the government believes the offender has provided adequate help, a motion can be filed under Rule 35 to shorten the offender’s prison sentence.

These are not all of the methods that can be used to potentially decrease a federal prison sentence. There may be other circumstances unique to your case that can help you negotiate for a reduced sentence.

How Much Can Your Sentence Be Decreased?

The amount that your sentence can be reduced depends on a few factors. Ordinarily, a §5K1.1 motion and a Rule 35 motion would reduce an offender’s sentence by about two levels or 15%. However, there is a possibility that a sentence could be decreased even lower than the standard 15% reduction.

When a federal sentence is decreased using a §5K1.1 motion or Rule 35 motion, the judge has the discretion to disregard mandatory minimums for sentencing. This means that if your 15% reduction brings your sentence to lower than the mandatory minimum, the judge can give you a sentence that is below the mandatory minimum. For example, if you were convicted of a crime with a minimum five-year sentence, and you were sentenced to five years, a 15% sentence reduction would bring your sentence lower than the minimum, which can be approved by a judge.

Philadelphia Defense Attorney Fighting for Sentence Reductions

If you or a family member needs help negotiating for a reduced sentence, you should contact an experienced felony criminal defense attorney. Whether you’ve been charged with federal crimes or wish to fight a conviction by going through the criminal appeals process, Pennsylvania criminal conviction appeals attorney Lloyd Long can help.

To set up a free and private legal consultation with our attorneys if you were charged with federal crimes like trespassing on federal property in Philadelphia, call the Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away at (215) 302-0171, or contact us online. We proudly serve clients throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area and will keep your information confidential.

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