How Important Is My Guideline?

By David Zapp and Johanna Zapp

Guidelines are like politics. Depends on where you are. In “Red” (Republican-Conservative) federal districts, guidelines will apply more frequently. In “Blue” (Democratic-Liberal) districts, “below-guideline” sentences will be the order of the day.

Let’s take New York City and Miami/Tampa. New York City is blue, blue, blue.  Trump didn’t even bother to campaign there and he is a New Yorker. He received 7 per cent of the vote. Hillary got 93 percent. Miami if not red is reddish, and Tampa is as red as they come. Thus guidelines are routinely followed there. And prosecutors there and in Miami have the run of the place. Tampa is so eager to get drug dealers that they literally fish them out of the water thousands of miles away from its district. They have made catching lowly crewmembers a cottage industry. I guess there is not enough traditional industry down there.

Even when Miami and Tampa depart from the Guidelines they still use the guidelines as their point of departure. In Brooklyn (Eastern District of New York) and Manhattan (Southern District of New York) judges are free to impose any sentence they want to except, of course, for the mandatory minimum sentences imposed by law. A first time offender in New York with no major role has an excellent chance of being given a below-guideline sentence or no jail time at all. In Miami, prosecutors “recommend” sentences and they most often get what they want even when defendants cooperate.

So when you ask whether guidelines will be followed the correct answer is “depends where you are.” And if you are cooperating your guideline means nothing at all in New York.

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