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What Are Sentencing Guidelines?

Sentencing guidelines are ways to impose more uniform sentences for similar offenses. A set of standards for defining the punishment that a convicted criminal should receive based on the nature of the crime and the offender's criminal history. Without these guidelines the judge will not have any variations on determining the penalty to impose and the accused might face a tougher or a more lenient sentence than what is necessary for the crime committed. Sentencing guidelines help the judge in the difficult decision-making process involved in sentencing. Guidelines also help reassure uniformity in sentencing.

There are factors that the judges must take into account when determining the proper sentence for the crime. First factor is the criminal background of the defendant, if any. Second is the conduct and behavior before and after the commitment of the crime. Both factors are relevant in determining the offense level in the sentencing guidelines. For instance, if the offender already has a criminal background it will be given a rating, the judge then looks up the arrangement of the suitable offense level to see a suggested sentence. These guidelines give the judge some scope in determining what level of punishment is appropriate in each case. Having guidelines about maximum sentencing gives the judges a basis to go by to determine what is appropriate in each case that comes before it.
For example, two people were accused of felony, one doesn’t have any criminal background but the other one has a previous conviction. The first one may be sentenced a more lenient penalty but the one with a criminal history may be sentenced harsher.

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