Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Criminal History Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The United States Sentencing Guidelines ("USSG") are used by federal judges to help determine what an appropriate sentence is for a particular defendant.  While the USSG are no longer mandatory, a sentencing court must properly determine a defendant's guideline range.  Generally, a defendant's guideline range is determined by two factors: the defendant's (1) offense conduct, and (2) criminal history.  This post will explain how a defendant's criminal history is calculated.

The vertical axis of the "Sentencing Table" provides for categories based on criminal history points.  The following is a picture of each category (I, II, III, etc.) and how many points each category is attributed.

For example, a defendant who has 3 criminal history points will find herself in criminal history category II.  Determining how many criminal history points a defendant has is governed by Chapter Four of the USSG.

§4A1.1 of the USSG provides the following:
The total points from subsections (a) through (e) determine the criminal history category in the Sentencing Table in Chapter Five, Part A.
(a)  Add 3 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment exceeding one year and one month.
(b)  Add 2 points for each prior sentence of imprisonment of at least sixty days not counted in (a).
(c)   Add 1 point for each prior sentence not counted in (a) or (b), up to a total of 4 points for this subsection.
(d)  Add 2 points if the defendant committed the instant offense while under any criminal justice sentence, including probation, parole, supervised release, imprisonment, work release, or escape status.
(e)  Add 1 point for each prior sentence resulting from a conviction of a crime of violence that did not receive any points under (a), (b), or (c) above because such sentence was counted as a single sentence, up to a total of points for this subsection. 
Various exceptions apply which may result in certain prior sentences not being counted.  It is important to consult with an experienced federal criminal lawyer who will make sure your criminal history is properly calculated.


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