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Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Preparing for Sentencing

The perfect resource for anyone that wants to prepare for court proceedings, sentencing proceedings, or the earliest possible release from prison.


We created: “Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Preparing for Sentencing” to assist people that face legal challenges. With our nation’s commitment to mass incarceration, prosecutors can bring anyone into the criminal justice system. Through our different brands, including White Collar Advice, Prison Professors, and Resilient Courses, our team worked with more than ten thousand people that have experienced challenges with the criminal justice system. This resource results from the work that we’ve done with them. We’re confident that this resource we’ve created will empower anyone facing legal challenges.


  • What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

The federal sentencing guidelines provide a starting point federal judges consider before they sanction people convicted of federal crimes. The law requires judges to consult the guidelines before imposing sentencing. Judges may choose to impose sentences below, within, or above the guideline range.

The federal sentencing guidelines provide a formulaic approach to sentencing. They apply to all crimes committed on or after November 1, 1987.

The federal sentencing guidelines are a form of determinate sentencing. Congress created the guidelines in to establish “truth in sentencing.”


  • History of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines:

Before the guidelines, we had an indeterminate sentencing system. With indeterminate sentencing, a judge would impose a sentence after the conviction. Then, a parole board would revisit the sentence and decide whether continued imprisonment would serve the greater interests of society. Members of the parole board would have discretion on whether to release the person in prison. When the parole board released a person, that person served the remainder of the term in the community under the supervision of a federal probation officer.

Congressional leaders abandoned indeterminate sentencing systems to create truth in sentencing. Some lawmakers did not like that people could serve different lengths of time for similar types of crimes. With determinate sentencing, a judge would impose a sentence, and the person would serve 85% of the sentence that the person served.


  • How do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work?

Congress created the U.S. Federal Sentencing Commission. It appointed people with appropriate credentials, including legal, academia, public policy, and corrections to work on the Commission. They categorized an exhaustive list of federal crimes. Each of those crimes included a specific number or offense level. Enhancements could lead to higher levels than the specific crime.

Then they created a grid with a vertical and a horizontal axis.


  • Vertical Axis:

The vertical axis included the following zones:

  • Zone A: Offense levels 1 through 8
  • Zone B: Offense levels 9 through 11
  • Zone C: Offense levels 12 through 13
  • Zone D: Offense levels 14 through 43

Each of those offense levels included a sentencing range. The higher the offense level, the more exposure a person had to imprisonment — a range within an offense level varied by a small overall percentage. For example, a sentencing range for an offense level 18, with a Category 1 (explained below), would be a range of between 27 and 33 months. A sentencing range for an offense level 32 would be a range of between 121-151 months.


  • Horizontal Axis:

The horizontal axis would include Criminal History Points with six categories. Those categories would factor in the person’s prior exposure to problems with the law. If a person had previous encounters with the law, the judge would put him into a higher category. The higher the category would expose the person to a higher sentencing range.

For example, contrast the sentencing range for a Category XI person with the range described above, for a Category I person.

Offense Level

Category I

Category XI

1827 to 33 Months57-71 Months
32121 tp 151 Months210 to 262 Months

Preparing for Sentencing

Understanding Factors of Sentencing Guidelines


The Federal Sentencing Guidelines consider many factors. A person cannot prepare for the best outcomes at sentencing without a basic understanding of how the guidelines work. A person should also understand the history of the guidelines.

Before a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, judges were bound by law to impose guidelines sentences—unless they went through a comprehensive process of explaining why it would be appropriate to impose a sentence outside the guidelines. Although the guidelines were already very harsh, if judges chose to go outside the guidelines, it would generally be to impose a more severe sanction.

In 2005, the Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Booker. That decision struck down the provision requiring judges to impose sentences within the guideline range. As a result, judges could use the federal sentencing guidelines as a starting point. But they could also consider the unique characteristics of the person that faced a sentencing hearing. As a result, the concept of sentence-mitigation took on more weight.

As a result of the Booker decision, people facing sentencing had much more influence. They could build a case of remorse or of mitigating factors that could influence a federal judge. It became incumbent upon any person facing a federal sentencing hearing to use critical-thinking skills. With an appropriate strategy, a person may be able to build a persuasive case that influences a lower sentence.


  • What Benefits do You Get by Reading Our Resource?

“Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Preparing for Sentencing?”

  • Each chapter will give a deeper understanding of how and why to prepare before sentencing.
  • That understanding will help a person restore confidence.
  • With more confidence, a person will be able to work more effectively with counsel.
  • By working more effectively with counsel, a person will put himself in a position for the earliest possible release date.
  • By getting the earliest possible release date, a person will return to his family at the soonest possible time, with the highest possibilities for success.

A criminal charge can feel daunting for any person. In the federal court, the conviction rate is very high. When federal prosecutors bring a case, the chances of a sentencing hearing exceed 70 percent. Most people plead guilty to qualify for plea agreements. Some go to trial, exposing them to harsher sentences under the guidelines.

Our team at Prison Professors created this guide to answer a person’s most burning questions about preparing for sentencing.

Learn Strategies to Prepare for Sentencing

Prepare for Sentencing to Get Favorable Results


Be aware that challenges from the legal system bring many different complications. Preparing for sentencing is only the first step because the criminal justice system is an evolving bureaucracy. It includes several different stakeholders:

  • Courts that determine judicial procedures,
  • Probation departments that prepare presentence investigations and supervise people with legal challenges,
  • Prison system that separates people from society,
  • Residential Reentry Centers that oversee halfway houses and home confinement,
  • Financial institutions that assess whether they want to allow a person to have an account,
  • Employers that will determine a person qualifies for a job,
  • Licensing agencies that influence a person’s profession,
  • Communities that may place restrictions on where a person can live,
  • Administrative courts that can change a person’s immigration standing,
  • Search engines that affect a person’s online reputation,
  • Many other collateral stakeholders.

For this reason, we will continue to build upon this resource. You can access the latest version of this resource anytime through our websites at:

Our premium brand, for clients that want to work closely with Justin Paperny and his team of personal consultants.



Our educational brand, where we publish free resources to help people understand how to prepare for court, for sentencing, and for a successful journey through the prison term.


Our resource for people that want to purchase self-directed courses to prepare for court hearings, sentencing proceedings, successful prison experiences, and success upon release. Our books and lower-end consulting packages are available through this resource.

Our project to help people recalibrate, rebuild, rebrand, and business development projects. Work directly with Michael Santos and our entire team.

What You’ll Learn as You Prepare for Sentencing

Each Chapter Follows A Process to Help You


In each chapter, we’ll cover four critical aspects of a specific topic, under the following headings:

  • The Methods:

We’ll cover the strategies and processes you’ll use to create your plan and execute on your journey to the best possible sentence and experience.

  • The Metrics:

The accountability metrics you’ll create to measure whether you’re genuinely grasping the concepts and identifying steps you can take to advance your candidacy for a successful outcome.

  • The Language:

Ideas on how you can communicate more intelligently with your attorney (and others) about the complicated challenges associated with a criminal charge.

Our team at Prison Professors has organized this resource in a logical progression. Though you can click hyperlinks in the left side of our margin to jump around, learning the tactics in any order that suits you at this particular stage in your journey.

We encourage you to take your time. Read and study one module and apply what you learn. When you feel as if you’re knowledgeable, then start asking the critical-thinking questions of whether you’ve done everything within your power to prepare for sentencing.


  • Chapter 1: How Can I Influence the Presentence Investigation Report in a Positive Way?
  • Chapter 2: How Can the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Influence my Early Release?
  • Chapter 3: What Factors Will the Judge Consider at Sentencing?
  • Chapter 4: What Should I Know About Good Time?
  • Chapter 5: Will the Residential Drug Abuse Program Get me Out of Prison Early?
  • Chapter 6: What is the Difference Between Earned Time and Good Time?
  • Chapter 7: How can the First Step Act Influence my Early Release?
  • Chapter 8: What Should I Know About the PATTERN Risk Assessment?
  • Chapter 9: What Do I Need to Do Before Sentencing?

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