Federal Sentencing and Prison Issues

Once charged with a federal criminal offense, the prospect of a conviction and term of imprisonment are very real. On average, more than 90% of federal criminal cases result in a guilty plea; approximately two-thirds of individuals who choose to exercise their constitutional right to a trial are convicted; and about 80% of all federal defendants are sentenced to some period of imprisonment. Legal advocacy thus does not stop at the point of conviction. Individuals and organizations subject to federal investigation and prosecution are well served to have experienced counsel familiar with the intricacies of federal sentencing laws both to gain an early understanding of all potential penalties, which is essential to properly evaluating any course of action, and to present the strongest possible arguments to mitigate whatever sanctions the court is considering. A favorable disposition consistent with the recognized goals of sentencing and controlling legal precedent typically requires familiarity with the pre-sentencing process and submission of a well researched and thoroughly considered sentencing memorandum. Although past successes are not necessarily predictors of future results, Frost | Bussert attorneys have routinely received sentences for clients below the final Federal Sentencing Guideline range based on downward departures and/or statutory considerations commonly referred to as 3553(a) factors.

Attorney Todd Bussert, a former sentencing advocate who was the Co-Chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Sentencing and Corrections Committee and the Vice-Chair of the Practitioners’ Advisory Group to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, has over 15 years’ experience assisting hundreds of individuals across the country with sentencing and prison issues. In addition to direct sentencing representation, Mr. Bussert frequently consults with other attorneys and their clients on federal sentencing matters, formulating strategies and case plans to best serve a client’s particular interests and needs. More and more, Mr. Bussert is brought into cases early to assist the defense team due to the importance of plea bargaining and the need to plan and prepare for sentencing and possible prison placement. Areas where Attorney Bussert can often be of assistance include:

BEFORE A FINDING OF GUILT
  • Pre-indictment and pre-plea strategy
  • Assessing potential penalties (for example, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines range)
  • Identifying client needs and community-based resources (for example, treatment and counseling)
  • Developing ‘pre-plea’ mitigation and letters
AFTER OF A FINDING OF GUILT/BEFORE SENTENCING
  • Preparing client for pre-sentence interview
  • Evaluating presentence report (PSI or PSR) for errors and objections
  • Assessing impact of PSI on placement within the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
  • Developing sentencing strategy, including presentation of relevant mitigation
  • When appropriate, fashioning community-based sanctions that courts may adopt as alternatives to incarceration
  • Drafting sentencing memoranda
AFTER SENTENCING
  • Evaluating the merits of and drafting appeals
  • Help ensure appropriate placement within the federal Bureau of Prisons and accommodation of necessary programming (for example, the 500-hour residential drug and alcohol program (RDAP) consistent with the agency’s policies and practices, and with judicial recommendations
  • Challenging BOP determinations (for example, appeals of charged administrative remedy violations, misapplication of agency policy)
  • Evaluating and advocating for pre-release eligibility
  • Preparing pardon or commutation applications

Imprisonment is arguably the most difficult aspect of any criminal case. The deprivation of liberty and forced separation from family and loved ones is something few can fully comprehend until confronted with that unfortunate circumstance. Mr. Bussert frequently represents clients facing incarceration or imprisoned within the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on issues ranging from placement and programming to challenging BOP policy and charged administrative remedy violations. These challenges can include litigation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For instance, prior the enactment of the Second Chance Act of 2007, Attorney Bussert was involved in dozens of challenges to the BOP’s “10% Rule,” which sought to unlawfully limit prisoner placement at federal halfway houses.

Recognizing that not everyone can afford an attorney for the specific purpose of addressing Bureau of Prisons issues, Mr. Bussert also writes and speaks on federal prison issues to increase understanding about how the BOP operates. He also maintains the Federal Prison and Post-Conviction Blog.

Contact experienced federal sentencing and BOP counsel at the offices of FROST | BUSSERT LLC today to schedule an initial free consultation to discuss your case.

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