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  • Writer's pictureFederalSentencingAlliance


The United States Sentencing Commission main Website offers raw datafiles downloads, that at first blush, imply that any user can meaningfully analyze the data collected by the Commission by fiscal year from one data set per year. This is a misnomer, as the vast majority of people in the universe can neither extract or analyze the data gratuitously offered. Indeed Commission datafiles are either underutilized, or not utilized whatsoever, by those that have the greatest need to analyze and document narrow information specific to a particular case; the defense bar representing putative defendants at sentencing.

18 US Code 3553(6) Factors To Be Considered In Imposing A Sentence states: "(6) the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.."

The challenge is to meaningfully analyze the USSC datafiles (raw data) to determine whether or not the recommended sentence being portrayed by the government is disparate or not, when compared to other defendants with similar records, both in the same U.S. Circuit where a putative defendant is to be sentenced, and then based on national statistics.

Too often the government will pull one or two or three similar cases and provide them to the Court at sentencing, arguing that because those cases are similar to the one at hand, that the putative defendant being sentenced by the Court should receive that same sentence. Defense counsel oftentimes has no argument to rebut the government's stance, because they are unprepared to argue Commission data, and could not otherwise find similar case records on Pacer, Google, or anywhere else. When that happens defense counsel gets trounced at sentencing and this happens routinely, based solely on lack of preparation by defense counsel spawned by a lack of technical acumen necessary to analyze the Commission datafiles meaningfully. In other words, when defense counsel hits what appears to be an insurmountable brick wall in their efforts to analyze the Commission datafiles, they just give up.

Raw datafiles analysis of Commission datafiles can be downloaded by fiscal year for individual offenders and organizational offenders, and is the same raw data that the Sentencing Commission uses to compile it's own specific charts and tables, some of which are available online. The Commission does not have and will not prepare the specific chart or table applicable to any specific defendant's case. It's up to a keen defense attorney to do those things for his or her client using Commission datafiles in a raw state. Documenting other cases regarding other defendants with similar records found guilty of similar conduct remains a key factor at sentencing, and one often overlooked by defense counsel.


Federal Sentencing Alliance can assist attorneys and law firms in the analysis of Commission raw datafiles for any particular case, both for individual Circuit case similar conduct, and cases with similar conduct nationally, for any given year, or a combination of years looking backwards. Please contact Federal Sentencing Alliance for a consultation regarding analysis and documentation of Commission datafiles specific to your case.

Federal Sentencing Alliance can assist attorneys and law firms sentencing preparation related to the important factor that the Court must consider at sentencing, that is, the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records, pursuant to 18 U.S. Code 3553 (6).

This Article is for educational purposes only, to provoke critical thinking regarding the topical issues presented, and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss the facts of your particular case.

© 2019 Federal Sentencing Alliance

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