The Federal Sentencing Guidelines, followed by a spate of judicial decisions led by Booker v. U.S., 543 US 220 (2005), led to today’s sentencing practice in the federal judiciary. The defendant’s sentencing memorandum, a written submission detailing the facts and applying the sentencing guidelines as well as principles of 18 USC § 3553 governing sentencing, to the facts, are standard. These memoranda are important to sentencing judges.
Lost in the process in many cases is the role of the final sentencing argument made by the defendant’s lawyer. Truly, this is the last good chance for the court to be impacted by quality legal service to a needy client.
The Sentencing Argument
What does it take to make a strong sentencing argument – one that can actually impact a sentencing court?
Except for the quiet joy that comes with hearing the judge ask for a recess after the sentence, or watching the judge make handwritten revisions in a document before him or her at the bench, the lawyer can never really be sure how much difference has been made by the sentencing argument, the sentencing memorandum, or defense counsel’s approach to the case.
There are strong indicators, however. They show up in subtle ways, as is true of so much human communication:
- The tone of the court’s voice, body language and posture;
- Inquiry with a sense of genuineness;
- The anguish apparent in the court’s deportment;
- And sometimes even coloration of the jurist’s face.
These are the signs to be read. They are the placards of audience acceptance – the applause and the disses, the cheers and the boos, for the sentencing lawyer’s work.
Domina Law Group’s White Collar Practice
Domina Law Group pc llo’s white collar criminal defense work is select. We handle a few cases when asked by other lawyers, or under special circumstances.
Our white collar criminal activity in recent years has included:
- Tax evasion defense for professional persons;
- Contempt defense for parties to a massive construction project;
- Banking crime defense for an auto dealer;
- Defense of conspiracy to defraud the federal government in government payment cases;
- False claims charges.
A Real Life Example
At Domina Law Group pc llo, we firmly believe that thoughtful presentations and strong efforts can make a real difference in outcome. Out of respect for clients we have helped, an exemplar sentencing memorandum is available upon request by clients.
This opportunity to hear a sentencing argument in a hotly contested case may be of interest. After more than four (4) years of preparatory work in defense, resulting in a plea bargain to a single criminal count and dismissal of multiple other significant counts, at sentencing of our physician client, with a tax loss near seven (7) figures in a tax evasion case, this was the issue: Should a twenty (20) month term of incarceration be imposed, or should our client be permitted to return to the practice of medicine in a setting chosen by him with our advice, where his work is committed to serving some of America’s most needy and underserved citizens?
David Domina’s sentencing argument followed an impassioned plea by a skilled Assistant U.S. Attorney who argued for incarceration. This is what Mr. Domina said to the court.
Transcript of Domina Criminal Sentencing Argument
North Platte Bulletin: North Platte Doctors Sentenced for Tax Evasion (01/28/12)