Criminal procedure

sentencing—federal guidelines

Criminal justice systems in the United States—in both state and federal courts—traditionally allowed judges to consider all of the facts and circumstances of a case to determine a convicted defendant’s appropriate sentence. But the United States Congress and many state legislatures have passed laws that force judges to give fixed jail or prison terms (mandatory minimum sentences) to persons convicted of certain crimes—often drug offenses, but also certain gun, pornography, and economic crimes.

For example, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are non-binding rules that provide a uniform sentencing policy for defendants convicted of crimes in the United States federal court system. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are not mandatory, but judges must consider them when determining a criminal defendant’s sentence—and when a judge exercises discretion and departs from the Guidelines, the judge must explain what factors warranted the increased or decreased sentence—known as an upward departure or a downward departure.

State Statutes for the State of Texas

Federal Statutes