Sentencing in federal courts is a complicated procedure. Confusion exists between departures and variances from the sentencing guidelines. Texas residents may be interested in learning the difference between the two, which may be able to help a person get a better outcome in court.
The minimum and maximum sentences for offenses are set out by the U.S. Code. When courts sentence an individual to prison, they have to impose the minimum sentence for the offense. They can never exceed the maximum sentence set out by those standards. Guidelines have been established that set out a punishment range for individuals based on their offense and criminal history.
A variance may be used when sentencing an individual. This is a sentence that is imposed outside of the guidelines that have been set out in the U.S. Code. A departure may be used, which is a change from the guidelines range that is developed from the guideline policy.
The courts have the responsibility to impose a sentence that is sufficient for the offense and the criminal history of the individual. However, they cannot impose a sentence that is greater than necessary. These guidelines involve sentencing that goes from zero to six months, or it could involve 360 months to spending life in prison. Anything outside of those ranges could be considered a departure or variance. Departures or variances can be requested by either party in a criminal defense case.
If an individual has been accused of a crime, they may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney. The attorney may be able to help an individual prove their innocence by gathering CCTV footage, speaking with eyewitnesses or looking at other information to assist their client. Alternatively, an attorney may be able to help reduce a sentence if their client is convicted.