Rule 35

Correcting or Reducing a Federal Sentence: Rule 35

Correcting or reducing a federal sentence isn’t the same thing as a criminal appeal or a post-conviction relief motion even though technically the means to reduce or correct a sentence in the federal system falls under Title VII Post-Conviction Procedures of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. More specifically Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure authorizes a few different ways to correct or reduce a federal sentence.

The first part of the rule, Rule 35(a), deals with corrections of federal sentences based on arithmetic, technical or other clear error. This is fairly straight forward. If the sentence resulted from merely technical issues, the federal court may correct it. While the operative language use is “may” realistically the courts will typically correct the sentence without much fighting, but this must be done within 14 days of sentencing.

The second part of the rule, Rule 35(b), is not quite so simple. Rule 35(b) is a reduction of a federal sentence for substantial assistance. In many cases, the federal government will seek help from a convicted person in gathering information that can be used to prosecute other federal crimes.

Within one year of sentencing, upon the government’s motion, the federal court may reduce a defendant’s sentence for providing “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.” Note that this again is “may” and that the government does not have to do this.

After one year, the government still has some discretion to reduce a federal sentence, but it isn’t as open ended. In particular there are the following conditions placed on a Rule 35(b) motion after one year:

(A) information not known to the defendant until one year or more after sentencing;

(B) information provided by the defendant to the government within one year of sentencing, but which did not become useful to the government until more than one year after sentencing; or

(C) information the usefulness of which could not reasonably have been anticipated by the defendant until more than one year after sentencing and which was promptly provided to the government after its usefulness was reasonably apparent to the defendant.

Rule 35(b) assistance does not have to be limited to post-conviction assistance, but can also include pre-sentence substantial assistance. When Rule 35(b) is used, a defendant can actually receive a sentence BELOW the minimum sentence authorized by statute.

Because Rule 35 is discretionary post-conviction relief remedy in the federal court system, it can be difficult to get. This is why it is critical to work with a post-conviction relief attorney that has experience with Rule 35 motions and getting the best results for the substantial assistance provided. The federal appeals lawyers and federal post-conviction relief attorneys at Appeals Law Group can evaluate your case and see how to best leverage your assistance to maximize results when working with the federal government.


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