In Springfield, the sentencing guidelines have been rigorously enforced. Those are guidelines meant to provide to a sentencing court a structure as to an appropriate sentence. The guidelines themselves are published, and for each particular offense the guidelines are set to give you some idea, give the court some idea of what the potential sentence would be. The premise of setting the guidelines was to ensure that individuals similarly situated with the same criminal history background and the same offense characteristics received essentially the same sentence. Be it in Springfield Illinois, Peoria Illinois, Champagne Illinois, Or New York, Or San Francisco, or any other place, and that’s where the guidelines really affected sentencing over the last 25 years or so.
Those guidelines have been relaxed a little bit based upon a case called United States Vs. Booker, but they still are very important. The other factors that changed over the years is that the US Attorney’s Office in the central district of Illinois tends to have more complex cases than they used to. There was a time 25 30 years ago when they would have a number of relatively small cases, cases you would see in state court, but they since have sought to make stricter guidelines. If you do see a case that you would think is not a major case, it’s probably because the defendant in the case has a major criminal history background such that the mandatory minimum sentences under the statute. For instance, if a person has two prior felony convictions for drug offenses and the third offense is one in federal court, that is a mandatory if the person’s convicted, that is a mandatory sentence of life in prison. So you can see that an individual really gets brought into federal court for these tough cases, these high sentence cases that you normally don’t see in the state court arena.
The federal courts tend to be a lot tougher in terms of sentencing than the state courts. Fewer cases, longer sentences, so you really need to be vigorously advocating for your client in every arena. That’s one of the real considerations you have, and that’s how things have changed over the years. Ultimately, the representation that you receive or fail to receive can make a huge difference in any case.