A defendant often faces greater sanctions and longer incarcerations within the federal court system than a state court system. The charges by the US Attorney’s Office are usually more severe and there is a minimum sanction of prison time. If the case is one that is unlikely to go to trial or the defendant will not be exonerated, there are steps that an experienced criminal defense attorney can take to help reduce the sentence.
Residential Drug Addiction Treatment Program (RDAP)
Within the federal prison system there is a program which can reduce a sentence by 8 to 12 months. The Residential Drug Addiction Treatment Program is designed to assist inmates in overcoming their addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. To qualify for this program, the defendant must have an immediate need for drug addiction treatment and typically have a sentence or remaining sentence of at least 24 months. Eligibility does not require that the defendant be charged with a drug related offense, so long as the defense attorney can demonstrate that the crime occurred as a result of their client’s addiction.
Once the defendant is found eligible for the program, he or she must complete a 500 hour program while incarcerated. If they successfully participate in and complete the program, they may have as much as a 12 month reduction in their sentence. There are additional post-incarceration follow-up components of the program which also apply.
The Defense Attorney’s Role
When a defendant pleads guilty in federal court, sentencing often occurs 2 to 4 months later. The US Probation Office will prepare a pre-sentencing report for the judge and to complete this report, they will interview the defendant. This in-depth interview addresses previous drug history, employment history and criminal history and the process can take hours.
A federal criminal defense attorney will prepare his/her client for this interview and discuss how to answer certain questions. The focus is not on the charge, i.e. drug, firearm, child pornography, etc., but on the client’s addiction. Some clients are in denial about their addiction and fail to see how it has affected their life or resulted in their current situation. An experienced attorney will help the client accept their addiction so it can be treated. The goal is to help the clients understand that when answering the questions, being honest about their current drug or alcohol addiction will benefit them as they may qualify for RDAP.
The judge will receive the presentencing report as well as a memorandum of law prepared by the defense attorney. These two documents can establish the need for the client to participate in the RDAP program which may ultimately reduce their sentence.
Hiring a board certified federal criminal defense attorney will increase the chances of having your sentence reduced. They understand the system and how to prepare you to achieve the best possible outcome.