If you have been charged with a federal offense you may be able to get the charge dismissed or reduced. If you are unable to get the charge dismissed or reduced, you may enter into a plea agreement or go to trial. If you enter into a plea agreement or if you are found guilty at a trial, you will be sentenced according to the Sentencing Guidelines. Also, some charges call for a mandatory minimum sentence, which is often more that the Sentencing Guideline. A mandatory minimum sentence means that for some crimes the judge must sentence all defendants to a minimum number of months in prison unless he or she qualifies for something called “safety-valve”. In other words, if you qualify for the safety-valve the judge can sentence you by the Sentencing Guidelines and give you less than the mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Safety-Valve in Federal Criminal Cases
Sentencing in federal court is mostly done by the Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines consider things like criminal history, base offense level, offense characteristic, victim injury, role in the offense, obstruction of justice, acceptance of responsibility, and timely notice of intent to plea guilty. A defendant is usually sentenced by the Sentencing Guideline score unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence. If there is a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge must impose a mandatory minimum sentence, which is often more than a Guideline sentence.
Congress has passed the “Safety Valve” statute. The safety-valve statute allows judges to impose sentences below the mandatory minimum if the defendant meets certain requirements. In order to qualify for the safety-valve:
- no one was injured,
- the defendant has little or no criminal history,
- the defendant did not use a gun, violence or threats,
- the defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager or supervisor of the offense,
- the defendant submits to a debriefing and is fully honest during the debriefing.
If a defendant meets the safety-valve requirements, the judge can sentence a defendant below the mandatory minimum sentence. In other words, the judge can sentence you to less than the mandatory minimum number of months in prison.
It is important for an attorney to understand the safety-valve and argue for a sentence below the mandatory minimum sentence. In certain cases, the judge shall impose a sentence within the guidelines without regard to any statutory minimum sentence if the judge finds that the defendant meets the criteria set forth below:
(1) the defendant does not have more than 1 criminal history point;
(2) the defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon in connection with the offense;
(3) the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person;
(4) the defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise; and
(5) the defendant has truthfully provided to the Government all information and evidence the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a qualified lawyer is that you increase your chances of getting the relief you deserve. A skilled and experienced attorney will know the law and be able to get you a safety-valve sentence if you quality.
A good attorney will have the knowledge and experience necessary to resolve your case with the best possible outcome. You will need to hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Why? Because experience counts.
If you have been arrested for a federal offense, you may be facing a long mandatory minimum prison sentence. Not every attorney has the qualifications and experience to handle a mandatory minimum sentence case.
If you or a loved one need legal assistance with a federal criminal charge call Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Daniel J. Fernandez of Fernandez & Hernandez at 813 229-5353.