If prosecutors charged you with a crime, start preparing for sentencing. Invest the time, energy, and resources to learn. What steps can you take to get a better outcome at sentencing?

More than 90% of the people who face criminal charges in federal court face a sentencing hearing. Federal judges will rely upon the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines. I offered a brief history of sentencing guidelines in an earlier article I wrote about Aberrant Behavior. By reading about that history, visitors of Prison Professors can learn how and why judges use the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Judges will consider various factors at sentencing. Learn how to build a case that may lead to a lower sentence. One strategy may include the rule of “diminished capacity” in federal sentencing.Diminished capacity in federal sentencing


What is diminished capacity in federal sentencing?

As a legal term, diminished capacity implies that the individual didn’t know he was committing an offense. The person may plead guilty to committing a crime. But if the person didn’t know that he was committing a crime, the judge may be more inclined to have mercy when imposing the sentence.

According to the theory of diminished capacity, a person who knowingly commits a crime, and knowingly makes victims of other people, deserves a severe sentence. A person that commits a crime, but doesn’t know that he is committing a crime, may be worthy of mercy.

From a common sense perspective, it seems reasonable that a judge would impose a lighter sentence on some people. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has made several rules that allow judges to consider mitigating factors at sentencing. Judges can consider all types of mitigating factors, including:


  • Poverty

  • Racial discrimination and humiliation,

  • Drug abuse,

  • Addiction,

  • Dysfunctional family background

  • Lack of Guidance as a Youth,

  • And other influences.


Prosecutors will likely oppose requests for mercy. That’s their job. The Attorney General has issued policies that direct all prosecutors to charge defendants as severely as possible. His policy requires prosecutors to object to any arguments that may lead to a downward departure.

Still, Title 18 USC § 3555(a) requires judges to consider all types of personal factors. The guidelines provide a start. It’s up to the prosecutor to argue for a stiff sentence, and for the defense attorney to argue for a lenient sentence.


Diminished Capacity in Federal Sentencing

What steps should a person take to show that he is worthy of a lower sentence? In some cases, that person may want to write a comprehensive story. The story should begin with a clear understanding of diminished capacity. In many cases, a person can plead guilty. Yet if he can show influences that led him into crime, he may help his attorney advance an argument for diminished capacity.

The United States Sentencing Guidelines offer insight. They state that a federal court may depart downward from the minimum sentence on the basis of diminished capacity. This rule applies for any nonviolent offense. Don’t take my word for it. At PrisonProfessors.com, we always advise people to do their own research. Check out the following citation:

United States Sentencing Guidelines, § 5K2.13. This guideline permits a court to depart downward if the defendant “committed a nonviolent offense while suffering from significantly reduced mental capacity not resulting from voluntary use of drugs or other intoxicants.”


What are the Mitigating Factors?

The United States Sentencing Guidelines allows for downward departures for mitigating factors. One of those factors may include an “extraordinary mental condition.” Defendants can build a case that may rely upon § 5K2.0 of the guidelines. Under that section, a person can present the diminished capacity defense for other types of crimes, even for violent crimes.

The defense attorney will argue legal matters. But a person who is charged has a duty. Has he done everything within his power to help the defense attorney understand why he committed the offense?

A defense attorney will not know all the details of a person’s life. The person must invest time and energy to explain. What type of background did he have? What experiences did he have in school? What influences led to his career? How did he perceive his role in the community? What people influenced him to make decisions along the way?

I am not implying that a judge an argument for diminished capacity in Federal Sentencing will spare a person prison time. I am saying that a person should learn. I am saying that if prosecutors charge a person with a federal crime, then it makes sense to learn about every strategy possible. If a person expects a judge to have mercy at sentencing, then the person should invest the time and energy to help the judge. Let the judge know every influence that led to his criminal behavior. Influences may not excuse the crime. But influences may help explain the crime. They may advance an argument for diminished capacity in Federal Sentencing.

Learn more about Diminished Capacity in Federal Sentencing

At Prison Professors, we offer all types of free content for people. We want people to understand prosecution. We want them to understand the sentencing process. We want them to understand how they can prepare for a better outcome. Learn about the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Learn about the Presentence Investigation Report. Learn about the prison system. Learn strategies to grow through the prison sentence. Learn what steps you can take to put yourself on a pathway to success.

Clients hire our team at Prison Professors to assist them in preparing for sentencing. Our team can advance arguments for diminished capacity in Federal Sentencing hearings.

We interview clients. Our experience helps us find themes in the story. Those themes reveal all of the influences that led the person into the crime. They do not excuse the crime. Instead, they explain what the person learned from the experience. They show how the person identifies with the victim. They reveal why the person is facing a sentencing hearing. They help defense attorneys who want to argue for a lower sentence.

If people want to pursue this path of using diminished capacity in federal sentencing on their own, we encourage them to read all of the articles and posts on PrisonProfessors.com. Subscribe to our channel on YouTube so you can receive notice when we publish new content. It’s free. We strive to help people receive the best possible outcome.

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