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Career Offender Status in a Federal Criminal Case

If You or a Loved One is Determined to Be a Career Offender in a Federal Criminal Case

This issue comes up a lot in federal crimes.  It usually involves big drug cases where people are being classified by the government, the court, the probation department as a career offender.

A “career offender” is a special designation used in United States Sentencing Guidelines for specific convicted defendants, such as:

  • You must be at least 18 years old at the time the offense was committed;
  • You must be convicted of a felony drug crime or a felony crime of violence; and
  • You must have two prior felony drug or crime of violence convictions.

What that does is obviously up the stakes as far as how much federal custody time you're facing.  One thing it does is it triggers you to be a criminal history category IV which is the highest category.

If you look at the federal sentencing guidelines, that puts you in a real difficult predicament.  You would look at whatever your base offense level is, whatever enhancements the government attaches.

Then you take off acceptance or responsibility if you're going to work out a deal with the government and anything else that is applicable, and that is going to put you in a guideline range.

Mandatory Minimums in Federal Sentencing

The problem is, if you look at a guideline range for a criminal history I versus a criminal history IV, there's obviously a big difference between those two.

So, that's one big ramification of being determined to be a career offender in a federal criminal case. Also, you're looking at mandatory minimums, whether it be a 10-year mandatory minimum, a 20-year mandatory minimum.

Obviously, nobody wants to be put in federal prison and when you start to look at these minimum sentence. They are huge sentences and when you're staring down 20 years at 85% because of the charge you're charged with combined with the fact that you are a career offender, that really puts you in a difficult position.

Challenging Career Offender Status

Career Offender Status in a Federal Criminal Case
Our federal criminal lawyers can make an argument that you should not be classified as a career offender to avoid severe penalties.

What we try to do is figure out ways that you don't have to do these 10, 20 year or more sentences because you're a career offender.  One of the ways, obviously, that we attack this is to try to make the argument that you're not a career offender.

We can argue that just because you do have a couple of convictions in the past, that doesn't make you a career offender for purposes of the federal sentencing guidelines.

We're going to try to make the argument that whatever the government or the probation department is saying, it overstates what your actual criminal history looks like.

So, obviously I'm going to need to sit down with you and get information from you about what's happened in the past, how many convictions you have and what the convictions are.

Because here are the requirements, and they're pretty basic, in order to be determined to be a career offender:

  • Number one is that your current charge is typically going to be some sort of a drug offense — some sort of a possession for sales or sales of a large amount of drugs which triggers the feds to become involved with your case.  That would be requirement number one when it comes to these federal drug charges where people are looking at a lot of time because they're being classified as a career offender.
  • The second requirement is you're going to need to have two convictions either at the state or federal level for either serious drug crimes like sales, or possession for sales, or some sort of violent felonies at the state or federal level which I see once in a while. However, it's usually when they're grabbing people who are involved with drugs, RICO, whatever the case may be, and these people have prior drug convictions — that's usually what's triggering this career offender situation.

For example, let's say if in the year 2015 you were convicted of sales of drugs at the state level.  You caught some time for it — whether it was county jail or prison, you served your time and you're done.

And then let's say, a couple of years later, you picked up another sales case and you got convicted, you served your time and you're done.  Now, your latest case is a new federal case.

It's a big drug case.  You're being charged with a large quantity of some sort of drug which triggers a 10-year mandatory minimum for example and you have those two prior convictions, you're going to be considered a career offender and you're going to be looking at a lot of time in federal prison.

Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
Call the Hedding Law Firm to learn hw we can help you with federal criminal charges.

So, obviously, you're going to want to get an attorney who has dealt with these types of cases before who has experience with them:

  • who knows what the mitigating factors are related to these types of offenses, and
  • who knows what circumstances can be argued to try to avoid a huge federal criminal sentence.

Another way to get out of a situation where you're being classified as a career offender in a criminal case is to be able to fight the case.  In other words, if you can go to trial jury trial, win, found not guilty, you don't have to worry about the career offender.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have that option if the government has evidence against you.  The type of evidence they're going to have is, sometimes people sell to an undercover agent or someone who's working for the government, that would be one way to catch somebody.

Another way is they get phone conversations.  They get a wire tap warrant signed by a judge and then they listen to conversations, they grab drugs, they grab people, they arrest them, they charge them, they indict them and now you're caught up in a federal case.  There are all sorts of ways they can prove these cases.

So, if you or a loved one has a federal criminal case, you're looking at a lot of time in custody because it's a drug case and because your significant other is being viewed as a career offender, pick up the phone.  Ask to speak to Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.