Jerome P. Aquino
Attorney at Law
Northern Virginia Legal News
Federal Sentencing. A judge determines the sentence in Federal Court, not juries. However, a judge takes into account several factors in sentencing. First, the federal statute upon which the defendant stands convicted determines the minimum and maximum sentencing exposure. Congress makes that decision. Between these two poles is the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are of great importance in understanding what sentence a defendant is likely to receive. While no longer binding on federal judges, the Guidelines provide a roadmap to the judge and interested parties on what sentence should be applied between the two poles set by Congress. The Guidelines take a number of factors into consideration in determining an appropriate sentencing range. For example, the Guidelines examine the role a defendant played in the crime, whether he accepts responsibility for his action and the prior criminal history of a defendant. Judges may depart from the recommended sentence of the Guidelines. In sum, it is important that a defendant understands the Guidelines before he makes a decision on whether to plead guilty or to proceed to trial.
There is always much discussion over whether a person may sue an employer because he/she has been fired. In fact, the law in Virginia is tilted heavily toward employers. In general, without a fixed term contract, employees may be fired at any time, with or without notice, for any reason. The only limitation on an employer’s ability to fire an employee is derived from Federal or Virginia law. For example, an employee may not be terminated for reasons of race, sex or religion. Likewise, an employee may not be terminated for filing a workmen’s compensation claim. In sum, employees should seek legal counsel for advice on employment rights as well as a potential claim for unemployment compensation.
A criminal conviction, federal or state, creates no immigration consequences for a United States citizen. However, they can have a significant effect on a permanent resident (green card holder) or a resident present in the United States on a non-immigrant visa (e.g., F-1 student or H1-B, temporary worker). Convictions that can affect status fall into three general categories. First, there are aggravated felonies, which are fatal to maintaining lawful status and will lead to deportation. These crimes are, for the most part, serious crimes in which the sentence imposed is one year or more in jail regardless of how much of that sentence is suspended. The second group involves crimes of moral turpitude, which in general reflect an intentional and planned wrongful act. These crimes can, but do not necessarily, lead to deportation. Finally, there are certain offenses that the Congress has determined require deportation (e.g., domestic violence, firearm offenses). A foreign national charged with a crime should have a serious discussion about the consequences of a conviction with his/her lawyer.
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