Criminal Sentencing/Punishments


Do I Qualify for the Safety Valve in terms of my Federal Sentence?

Criminal Sentencing/Punishments | Drugs

Punishment for federal criminal offenses can be harsh. If you are charged with a federal crime it is important to hire an attorney with experience with and knowledge of the federal sentencing guidelines.

Many offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences which is a minimum sentence that a judge must impose. For example a drug offense may carry a minimum 10 year sentence up to life in prison. The Safety Valve was enacted to provide relief for harsh mandatory minimum sentences.

The safety valve is set forth in 5C1.2 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. It is important to note that the safety valve only applies to federal drug offenses. It provides relief from the mandatory minimum sentence if the defendant has little to no criminal history (which is defined as 0 or 1 criminal history points) and if the defendant truthfully discloses everything he knows about the crime he committed prior to sentencing. The defendant must meet the following criteria to be eligible for the safety valve:

(1) the defendant does not have more than 1 criminal history point, as determined under
the sentencing guidelines;

(2) the defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) 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, as determined under the sentencing guidelines and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in section 408 of the Controlled SubstancesAct; and

(5) not later than the time of the sentencing hearing, 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 or of a common scheme or plan, but the fact that the defendant has no relevant or useful other information to provide or that the Government is already aware of the information shall not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement.

If a defendant is eligible for the safety valve, the sentencing judge has the ability to sentence under the mandatory minimum sentence. It is imperative if you or someone you know is charged with a federal crime to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to defend and guide you through this complicated process.

Consecutive and Concurrent Sentences

Criminal Defense | Criminal Sentencing/Punishments

Often during the commission of a crime, a defendant breaks more than one law. For example, if an alleged defendant robs a liquor store and injures an employee during the robbery, the defendant would be charged with robbery and assault for the harm of the employee. He would be punished for each charge. When a judge sentences a defendant for several crimes during one sentencing hearing, he has the option to order a concurrent or consecutive punishment. Depending on the decision of the judge, a defendant may spend a very long time in prison.

The Difference Between Consecutive and Concurrent

Depending on the laws of the state, the judge has the discretion to order a consecutive or concurrent sentence. When a defendant is given two or more sentences, a consecutive sentence is one in which each sentence is served one after the other. Each sentence is served one at a time. When the first sentence ends, the next one begins until the defendant has endured each of his punishments.

A concurrent sentence is one in which two or more penalties are taken at the same time. If a defendant gets two sentences, each for five years, both are served concurrently at the same time. That means, instead of serving 10 years in prison, the defendant serves just five.

How a Judge Decides Sentencing for Multiple Sentences

State and federal laws determine whether a concurrent or consecutive sentence is ordered by a judge. Federal courts use the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which describe the length of a criminal sentence and whether multiple charges should be served consecutively or concurrently.

As a general rule, sentences for multiple convictions should be ordered by default as concurrent sentences. A judge can order a defendant to serve more than one sentence at a time based on his or her discretion. When multiple sentences are ordered, the court includes whether or not they are consecutive or concurrent on the sentencing order. In most states, if this item is not on the sentencing order, the sentence is automatically considered to be consecutive in nature.

A judge will consider several factors when deciding to order a consecutive or concurrent sentence. Some of these factors include:

  • Nature of the crime
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • Protection of society
  • Whether other punishments such as fines would be more appropriate
  • Whether the cumulative terms fit the crimes committed

By receiving concurrent sentences for multiple crimes, a defendant may spend significantly less time behind bars. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist with a request for concurrent sentencing.

For additional information about multiple convictions, reach out to Madrid Law at 713-877-9400.

Three Teens Charged with Capital Murder in Death of Teen

Criminal Sentencing/Punishments | Juvenile Crimes | Murder | Violent Crimes

Three teens in Harris County have been charged with Capital Murder in the death of another teen. According to this story, the victim was in the car with another male after buying Air Jordan shoes when an armed individual got out of a car and demanded the shoes. The victim was then shot by another individual. After being shot, the victim tried to drive away but crashed into two houses. The victim later died.

A Review of Capital Murder Charges

In Texas, under Texas Penal Code §19.03, one of the ways a Capital Murder may be committed is if a person commits murder and intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit robbery.

In addition, under Texas Penal Code §7.02, an individual can be criminally responsible for the acts committed by another person. Texas Penal Code §7.02(a)(2) explains that this is possible when an individual solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense if the individual is acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense.

An individual can also be criminally responsible for the acts committed by another person if, as stated in §7.02(b), in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators and the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy. This is true even if the individual being held criminally responsible had no intent to commit the additional felony.

The individuals in this case are charged with Capital Murder, which carries the punishment of the death penalty or life in prison. According to the United States Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons and Texas Penal Code §8.07(c), if one of the defendants was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident, the defendant would not be eligible to receive a death sentence.

However, the teens charged in this case are 18 and 19 years old. Therefore, they are all eligible to receive the death penalty.

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in Houston, contact Madrid Law, PLLC as soon as possible for review of your cases by a Board Certified criminal defense attorney.

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