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Federal Sentencing

Federal criminal cases in New York City are prosecuted in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York by the US Attorney’s Office. Federal criminal prosecutions proceed far differently than a state criminal matter.  The fast pace, plea bargaining process and penalties are all much different than in state court.

If you are charged with a Federal Crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that your case reaches the best resolution for your circumstances. At The Law Offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates we bring the experience and dedication in handling tough criminal cases while advocating for our clients when they are in difficult situations. Federal crimes are crimes that are aggressively prosecuted and can carry a tough sentence. It is imperative that you secure an attorney who will work hard to advocate for you and investigate your case.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates are committed to forming a vigorous defense on behalf of individuals who stand accused of federal crimes). Our attorneys have in-depth knowledge of your rights, and the potential penalties that may arise and the possible weaknesses in the charges against you.

At the Law Offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates, we understand that no two cases are alike. The lawyers at The Law Offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates, have many years of experience handling criminal defense cases. The attorneys at the law offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates can help you navigate through the criminal defense process, and make it easily manageable in your time of need. Our attorneys are not only trained in handling simple criminal, we take care of complex federal criminal defense litigation in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Bronx, Westchester, Richmond County, Manhattan and Brooklyn Kings County New York.


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One thing in federal court that is drastically different from New York state court is the sentencing process.  Sentencing in federal court is determined by a rigid structure of factors, any one of which can drastically alter your sentence.  While federal judges have more flexibility now than in past years, you still need a federal criminal defense lawyer who knows every factor that may reduce your sentence.


A Brief History of Federal Sentencing

The 1987 Sentencing Reforms

Prior to 1987 federal judges around the country sentenced individuals on a case by case basis.  This afforded extremely broad discretion to judges who were only constrained with maximum penalties.  Under this scheme there was great disparity between sentences for individuals in different locations.  To address these differences, in 1984 Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act, which abolished parole in the federal system and allowed appellate review of judicial sentences.  The Sentencing Reform Act also set up the United States Sentencing Commission to enact a system of standardized sentencing.

On November 1, 1987 the US Sentencing Commission enacted the sentencing guidelines, which set forth uniform sentences for federal crimes.  The guidelines sets an individual’s sentence based upon the category of the offense charged and the criminal history of the individual.


Post 2005: After United States v. Booker 

In 2005 the Supreme Court decided the landmark case United States v. Booker.  The Court in Booker announced two major changes to the federal sentencing process: (1) The sentencing guidelines were no longer mandatory, and (2) substantial changes to the standard for appealing a federal sentence.

Although federal judges are no long required to sentence a defendant under the sentencing guidelines, they must consult the guidelines and take them into account when sentencing.  Judges vary in their adherence to the guidelines but there are now numerous factors to cause a judge to depart downward from the guidelines.  Under Booker a defendant may appeal his sentence, but the appellate court may apply a presumption of reasonableness to a sentence within the guidelines.


The Federal Sentencing Process

The Plea Agreement and Allocution

If an individual pleads guilty it is almost always subject to a plea agreement.  The plea agreement is an agreement reached by the prosecutors and the defendant as to exactly what the defendant will plead guilty to, and what the sentencing range will be.  A defendant then tells the judge in court what he did in what is called the allocution.


The Pre-Sentence Report by Probation

 After the allocution or if you have been convicted after a trial, your case will also move towards sentencing.  The United States Department of Probation will set up a pre-sentence interview.  At that interview, the probation department will get information to write their pre-sentence report or PSR.  The defendant will have an opportunity to view and correct the report.  Once the defendant has submitted his corrections, the report will go to the judge, and will contain a recommendation on what the sentence should be.


The Sentencing Memorandum by the Defense

The defendant has a chance to submit his own memorandum.  This is a chance for the defendant, through his attorney, to show the court who he is as an individual and what led him to commit the crime.  A skilled attorney can use this memo to persuade a judge that a defendant deserves a lesser sentence because of who he is and what the circumstances surrounding the crime were.


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 The Sentencing

Once the judge has received the pre-sentence report from probation, the prosecutors’ recommendation, and the sentencing memo from the defendant, the defendant will appear before the judge, and the judge will issue a sentence.  Although the judge must consult the guidelines, ever since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker, a judge is not bound by the guidelines, and may give a higher or lower sentence based upon the factors put before him.

Our Approach to Federal Sentencing

Sentencing in federal court is a complex matter that involves a strict numerical “guidelines” calculation based on the offense, mitigating and enhancing factors, as well as criminal history.  It is then up to the judge to view the entire case and decide whether to stay within the “guidelines range”, “depart upwards” or “depart downwards”: Essentially, the judge considers a sentence recommended by the legislature, but, ultimately, makes the final decision based on what he is right.


The defendant’s sentencing memorandum is a chance to explain:

  • Where did the defendant come from? What is his background?
  • Who are the people in the defendant’s life, and what he means to them?
  • What led the defendant to commit this crime?
  • What are the good acts by the defendant that the court hasn’t heard?
  • How has the defendant already been punished by this crime?
  • How has the defendant worked to better himself since his arrest?
  • Where does the defendant see himself after he is released?

Often times we bring in experts to more fully help us and the court to explain a person and what they did.  We work with a number of experts in a variety of disciplines to assess the particular needs of each client.


Effective Legal Assistance 

Get the Help You Need from an experienced Federal criminal Defense Lawyer in New York. The Law Offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates offer professional assistance to help anyone charged with a felony to fight back. We understand that felony conviction threatens your life, your freedom and your future. To schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us by phone at


We like to start every case the same way: by listening to all the facts. We sit down with you (and your witnesses) to hear exactly what happened. The police and the accusers are going to have their story. We’ll be presenting yours. So we want to start by hearing and understanding your side of it.


Call us at 1-(800) 960-1529 or email us to schedule a consultation to see if we’re the right New York criminal defense lawyers for you.


We are dedicated to your success — so contact us today. Speak with one of our knowledgeable Long Island criminal defense litigation attorneys today from wherever you are in New York in Nassau and Suffolk, Brooklyn, Kings and Queens Counties, on Long Island and all New York City boroughs including Bronx, Westchester, Richmond County, and Manhattan.


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Get Help With Your Federal Legal Case Now


You should be properly prepared if you are facing criminal charges. You should know that you have certain legal rights and you must be very selective of the Lawyer and Law Firm that you chose to represent you. Have an Attorney council you on the right decision for you. We have Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers standing by and ready to help you.


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