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Bruce R. Bryan

Federal Sentencing Appeals

Critical errors can occur during the sentencing phase of a case resulting in a dramatic increase in the sentence imposed. Where there are no other errors in a case, an appeal may focus solely on the sentencing. Where a case involves multiple errors at the pre-trial, trial, and sentencing phases, the sentencing errors may be argued as part of the overall appeal.

Attorney Bruce R. Bryan is experienced in handling federal sentencing appeals

As an lawyer with more than 20 years experience handling sentencing issues in federal appellate courts, Mr. Bryan has achieved success in obtaining lower sentences for federal defendants. He is committed to excellence in advocacy and applies his skill and experience in writing persuasive appellate briefs to sentencing issues. Attorney Bryan is a legal author and an Adjunct Professor of Appellate Advocacy at Cornell Law School, one of the nation’s leading legal institutions. Errors occur with federal “Guideline” and “Non-Guideline” issues.


Guideline Sentence. A federal judge must “consider” the sentence recommended by the United States Sentencing Guidelines. A Probation Officer prepares a Presentence Investigation Report that states facts about the offense and Guideline factors that increase or decrease the sentence. A defendant may dispute many factors that increase the recommended sentence, such as the following if applicable:

  • Amount of money defrauded or lost
  • Drug quantity
  • Organizer, manager, or supervisor
  • Abuse of position of trust
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Criminal history category

The federal judge decides disputed factors and announces the Guideline sentence. In general, a defense attorney should dispute Guideline factors that should not apply because the judge may decide to follow the Guideline sentence. In addition, defense counsel should dispute an improper minimum or maximum statutory sentence. When the judge commits error in ruling that one or more guideline enhancements apply, this may lead to issues on the appeal.

Non-Guideline Sentence. Although a judge must “consider” the Guideline sentence, the judge is not bound by it. Rather, the judge is bound to “impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary to accomplish the goals of sentencing.” Among other things, the judge must consider:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense
  • The history and characteristics of the defendant
  • Sentence disparities among defendants

The arguments that can be made for a sentence below the Guideline sentence are broad. The following are just a few examples:

  • Defendant’s peripheral involvement
  • The loss amount overstates the seriousness of the offense
  • The offense conduct was aberrant behavior
  • The defendant is over 40 and therefore less risk of recidivism
  • Excellent employment history
  • Defendant’s extreme remorse
  • Post-offense rehabilitation
  • Defendant’s attempted cooperation with authorities
  • Extraordinary family circumstances
  • Loss of business, assets and source of income
  • Defendant’s poor health

Often, the trial attorney seeks to persuade the judge that it is just and right to impose a sentence below the Guideline sentence. However, the judge may not agree with the non-guideline arguments. This often leads to issues on the appeal.

The Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal

A federal defendant seeking to challenge his or her sentence must generally appeal the sentence to one of the eleven United States Circuit Courts of Appeal, depending on the state in which the district court is located.

Retain Federal Criminal Appeals Lawyer Bruce R. Bryan to appeal your federal sentence

As stated in his attorney biography, federal criminal appeals lawyer Bruce R. Bryan has an extensive experience in making persuasive arguments to a federal circuit court of appeal on federal sentences. With more than 20 years as a federal criminal appeals lawyer, Mr. Bryan has handled many federal criminal appeals, including sentencing appeals.

Bruce R. Bryan is the author of Guide to Criminal Appeals, Review and Parole in New York, an important book explaining the criminal appeals process in New York including sentencing (click here for a Free Downloadable Copy). Mr. Bryan is also an Adjunct Professor of Appellate Advocacy at Cornell Law School, an internationally recognized law school. He also teaches lawyers on criminal appeals to federal circuit courts of appeal and has also appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States.

To retain Mr. Bryan to handle your federal criminal appeal, including a sentencing appeal, or on a case in one of his related areas of practice, please contact him at his office in Syracuse, New York by calling 315-280-8790 to request an appointment or consultation.

B. Bryan, "Defendant's Guide to Criminal Appeals, Review & Parole in New York," (2005)

Guide to Criminal Appeals, Review & Parole in New York | Bryan Criminal Appeals Lawyer NY

The object of appellate advocacy is to persuade. The winning advocate focuses the court on the strength of your case. Read More

Cornell Adjunct Professor of Law

Guide to Criminal Appeals, Review & Parole in New York | Bryan Criminal Appeals Lawyer NY

As an adjunct faculty, Professor Bryan teaches "Advanced Persuasive Writing and Appellate Advocacy" to second and third year law students at Cornell Law School. Read More