KISS PR Brand Story Press Release Service Podcast

Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer in Dallas John Helms Explains Does It Matter If It Is Your First Offense

July 17, 2022 Episode 218
KISS PR Brand Story Press Release Service Podcast
Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer in Dallas John Helms Explains Does It Matter If It Is Your First Offense
Show Notes

As a federal criminal defense lawyer in Dallas, I am often asked by clients and their families if it matters in a federal criminal case that the accused has never been convicted of a crime. The answer is that it does matter. This article will explain how.

Will The Prosecutor Dismiss The Case If The Accused Has No Prior Convictions?

Many people accused of a crime hope that their lawyer can persuade a federal prosecutor to dismiss the case because the accused has no criminal record. Unfortunately for them, this almost never happens. The reason is simple: You don’t get to commit one free federal crime.

Federal crimes are serious enough so that federal prosecutors generally only take cases that they think have enough of a federal interest to justify using the resources of the federal government on them. A federal criminal defense lawyer is more likely to convince a prosecutor not to pursue a case if the evidence is weak or if there is no real federal interest. The fact that it is the defendant’s first crime is almost never a reason for a prosecutor to dismiss a case.

Can A Clean Record Mean A Shorter Sentence?

The fact that the prosecutor will not dismiss your case does not mean that a clean record does not matter. It matters because it normally means a shorter sentence than if the accused has prior convictions. There are two main reasons.

First, a clean record is something that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines take into account in recommending to the judge a range of months for your sentence. In federal courts, only the judge can decide your sentence. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines make a recommendation to the judge of a range of months in which the judge should sentence you. The United States Supreme Court has held that federal judges must consider the Sentencing Guidelines, but they do not have to follow them. See U.S. v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). This means that the judge always has to calculate the defendant’s recommended range, but the judge can still sentence the defendant above or below that range.

In arriving at the recommended range of months, the Sentencing Guidelines consider the seriousness of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. The seriousness of the crime is reflected in the defendant’s Offense Level. This is a numeric score. The higher the Offense Level, the more serious the crime. The Offense Level considers the type of crime as well as the specific facts of the case.

The Criminal History Category is a number between one and six. Category One means the defendant has no prior criminal history or almost none, or that any past convictions happened too long ago to be counted.

To illustrate how a clean record helps you, let’s consider two examples and compare them. First, let’s consider Defendant A. He has committed a crime with an Offense Level of 20, and he has no criminal history. He will have a Criminal History Category of One. Now, let’s consider Defendant B. He also committed a crime with an Offense Level of 20, but he has a prior criminal conviction for which he served 15 months in jail. He will have a Criminal History Category of Two. Now, let’s look at their Sentencing Guideline ranges.

Defendant Offense LevelCriminal History Category Recommended Sentence Range

A 20 I 33-41 months

B 20