Once charged with a federal criminal offense, the prospect of a conviction and term of imprisonment become very real. On average, more than 90% of federal criminal cases result in a guilty plea; approximately two-thirds of individuals who choose to exercise their constitutional right to a trial get convicted; and about 80% of all federal defendants get sentenced to some period of imprisonment. Legal advocacy thus does not stop at the point of conviction.

Hiring Counsel

Individuals and organizations subject to federal investigation and prosecution should have experienced counsel on their side. Their lawyers should be familiar with the intricacies of federal sentencing laws. This happens for two reasons. The first is to gain an early understanding of all potential penalties, which is essential to properly evaluating any course of action. The other reason is to present the strongest possible arguments to mitigate whatever sanctions the court is considering. A favorable disposition consistent with the recognized goals of sentencing and controlling legal precedent typically requires familiarity with the pre-sentencing process. Also, it requires submission of a well researched and thoroughly considered sentencing memorandum.

Avoiding Conviction

In order to avoid a conviction, it is important to be proactive with your defense. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is a great first step to take in this process. A criminal defense lawyer can help you understand the probable outcome of your case. They accomplish this based on the strength of your defense. Such a lawyer can then advise you on taking a plea bargain, attempting to negotiate with the prosecution, or defending yourself in court. Should you be convicted of a federal crime, a criminal defense lawyer can advocate for leniency. They do this based on your particular case and defense. The difference between facing the minimum penalties and maximum penalties can be significant in a federal case.


If convicted for a federal crime, there are several common penalties that you may face. It is important to understand the particular penalties for the crime you are facing, but some common penalties for federal crimes include:

  • Prison time. Note that when it comes to federal crimes, prison sentences tend to be longer than for state crimes or misdemeanors. You will most likely face a minimum of one year in prison, but you could face decades in prison depending on the circumstances of your case and what you have been charged for.
  • Fines. Again, these can vary greatly based on your individual situation. You may face a “minor” fine of a few thousand dollars, but you can also face fines of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • A probation period. In many situations, you will face a period of probation or parole when convicted of a felony crime.
  • Restitution. If there are victims involved in the crime that you have been convicted of, you may have to pay restitution to these individuals in order to make up for damage to their persons or property.
  • Rehabilitative programs. The court might order that you partake in a rehabilitative program to assist with a drug, alcohol, anger, or violence issue.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of possible penalties for a federal crime. This list merely discusses some of the most common penalties. Your individual case can differ.