Many St. Louis residents have heard the phrase, "the punishment should fit the crime." This is not always the case when it comes to criminal penalties imposed against individuals, as the same crime can yield different results depending on where a person is charged and what offense is at issue.
Federal sentences are often thought of as more severe than state sentences. Indeed, even the sentencing system itself can be different whether a person is charged in federal or state court.
For instance, one man was recently indicted after a federal investigation on an embezzlement charge. According to the allegations against the man, he embezzled over $40,000 of union funds during the time he was the president of the local labor union. The charge has a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
However, the actual sentence, if the man is convicted, would be determined by a federal judge after considering the federal sentencing guidelines. The judge is required to consider these guidelines, although they are not technically mandatory.
The guidelines will set a sentencing range, and judges often sentence a person within that guideline range. The range itself is determined by a variety of factors, including what charge is at issue and what criminal history the person charged may have, among other factors. For instance, a person with a more lengthy criminal history will face a higher sentencing range than a person charged with a first-time offense.
Accordingly, there is some flexibility in the application of the guidelines, and in a judge's particular sentence even after determining the guideline range. Consequently, it is essential that individuals vigorously defend themselves from the charges and are prepared to advocate for a lower sentence if convicted.
Source: CBS St. Louis, "Labor leader indicted on fraud charges," April 29, 2014