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Synopsis of a Federal Sentencing Memorandum in Criminal Cases

Posted by John Rogers | Mar 16, 2021

A federal sentencing hearing comes from either a guilty plea or a finding of guilt by a judge or jury. A sentencing hearing is one of the most critical hearings in a federal criminal case. The federal sentencing guidelines will call for an advisory prison sentence. Therefore, a detailed sentencing memorandum is necessary to persuade a judge to sentence you to less time.

A sentencing memorandum is drafted by the attorney for the defendant. It persuasively states the reasons why the judge should give you a specific sentence. Moreover, it ordinarily asks the judge to vary downward from the advisory guidelines. For example, if the federal sentencing guidelines call for an advisory 60 months sentence, then your sentencing memorandum should explain why you should receive 24 months instead.

A sentencing memorandum usually quotes sections of the presentence report. This reinforces the importance of the presentence interview with the U.S. Probation Officer. The probation officer writes a presentence report highlighting the offense characteristics, personal qualities, background, employment history, and childhood. A judge must understand your full background and where you come from because it may explain your underlying criminal conduct.

A sentencing memorandum is written per the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553. These are the factors that a judge must consider before imposing a sentence. 

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense and history and characteristics of the defendant;
  • The need for the sentence imposed to (1) reflect the seriousness of the crime, promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment, (2) afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; (3) protect the public; (4) provide education and vocational training;
  • The kinds of sentences available;
  • The need for warranted sentence disparity among similarly situated defendants;
  • And the need to provide restitution to the victim.

Your sentencing memorandum should be well-written, concise, and correctly cite the presentence report. It's vital that it not come across as a template because the judge may not believe your representations are genuine. 

If you are charged with a federal offense, then contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney today. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation. 

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John Rogers

*State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law *Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers Association *Selected “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine *Federal Criminal Defense Representation Nationwide *Personalized Attention & 24/7 Accessibility


Orange County federal crimes lawyer John Rogers is committed to providing exceptional representation all throughout California federal courts.

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