Sentencing Guidelines

New York State's sentencing guidelines are not only intimidating in their complexity and scope, but confusing to no-criminal attorneys with a lacking experience and knowledge in the area. Simply, if you hire a criminal lawyer with limited experience in in New York City Criminal Courts or County, City and Local Courts throughout New York State, you are setting yourself up for epic failure. Before being able to understand how New York Felony sentencing guidelines will impact you or a loved one, there are several important issues that you must address and questions answered.

The first and most obvious question is whether the offense you have been charged with, pleaded guilty to or have been convicted of after trial is a felony, misdemeanor, or violation. Felonies in New York have the potential for a multiple year state prison sentence. Felonies are further broken down into grades from A-I at the most serious end to an E felony at the other end of the spectrum. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in the local county or city jail, and violations have penalties up to 15 days in the local county or city jail.

NY Sentencing Guidelines: Felony Charges and Prior Criminal History

If you have been charged with a felony of any grade, the next question that your attorney must address prior to sentencing to determine your potential prison exposure is whether the felony is a "violent felony," a drug-related felony or neither. This will have a direct impact on the range of sentences you face. The next issue to address is whether or not you have a prior record - specifically a prior felony record. While an existing criminal record will likely impact your sentencing, if you have a prior felony conviction within the previous ten years leading up to your current offense, then you will face a greater potential amount of prison time, both on the low end and the maximum available sentences. This is elevated further if the prior felony within the last ten years was itself a violent felony. This increased punishment applies to individuals who have been convicted of a felony in the previous ten years and their "new" or current crime is a felony offense as well. People who fall within this more severe punishment guideline due to their prior violent or non-violent felony within the past ten years are referred to as a Predicate Felon or Violent Predict Felon. It is important to note, however, that the ten years mentioned above may in fact be greater than ten years due to legal issues such as whether or not the person was in custody during that time frame. Any duration that the person was incarcerated between the two cases will not count toward that ten-year cut off. This is referred to as "tolling."

In addition to being designated a Predicate Felon or a Violent Predicate Felon as discussed above, a person may also be a Mandatory Persistent Violent Felon or Discretionary Persistent Felon. Like being a "Predicate Felon," this legal designation will increase your potential sentence as a matter of law. A Mandatory Persistent defendant is basically one who has two prior violent felony convictions in the last ten years and the new conviction is also to a violent felony. There are other more nuanced requirements, but if this is the case, the person so convicted will typically face a mandatory life sentence. No discretion is afforded to the judge in this regard. A Discretionary Persistent felon, on the other hand, is one who has been convicted of any two prior felonies, along with other more nuanced requirements, and now stands convicted of another felony. Unlike a Mandatory Persistent offender, there is no time restriction on when these prior felonies were convicted. However, it is very rare for a defendant to be sentenced as such without more than just two old prior felony convictions because the sentencing judge does have discretion. If a person has many prior felony convictions, some of them violent, as well as a large number of serious misdemeanor convictions, and the current conviction is also a relatively serious felony, it would be much more likely for a judge to exercise his or her discretion unfavorably against a defendant. Keep in mind, none of these sentences address the debilitating collateral consequences faced by anyone – a United States citizen or foreign national – convicted of a felony crime.

Your Life – Your Future

State prison is a violent, scary and ugly place. Rikers Island in New York City or a county jail is not much better. You never want to call a penitentiary your home, but should you be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense in New York, that is where you could find yourself for weeks, months, years or decades.

When charged with a crime in New York, make sure you understand your exposure and New York’s misdemeanor and felony sentencing guidelines. Armed with the experience, knowledge and advocacy of Crotty Saland PC’s New York criminal defense attorney’s and former Manhattan prosecutors, you can put yourself in the best place to limit your exposure.

Call our New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan Prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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