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Sentencing of economic crimes could be changed

In line with its actions earlier this year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is poised to review sentencing guidelines for fraud and financial crimes. According to a recent Associated Press report, the commission has been reviewing data on economic crime sentencing, but more reviews from federal judges are needed before any substantial changes will take place.

Like the nation’s drug problem, the federal government is likely discovering that the costs behind jailing low-level offenders for longer periods of time necessitates change. In addition to the financial implications, longer jail sentences can take a serious toll on the families (especially children).  Because of this, defense attorneys have been calling for changes for years. 

Federal sentencing guidelines have been changed from being mandatory (where judges have little to no discretion) to advisory (where judges can deviate from them based on the law and facts). However, in recent years some judges have essentially ignored them. As such, it remains to be seen how the commission will incorporate any changes.

Such changes may be met with trepidation, given how the public still may be outraged by how unscrupulous fraudsters essentially profited from the 2007 financial crisis as well as the 2008 housing crisis.

Nevertheless, an ABA task force request on sentencing requested that guidelines be changed so that judges may focus less on how much money was lost overall, and instead on a defendant’s culpability in the crime, and whether he or she benefited from the crime.

The preceding is not legal advice, but rather information to help those accused of crimes understand more about the criminal justice system.

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