Federal Rule 35: Barriers and BenefitsMay 23, 2017
For some first-time offenders, it is shocking to learn that there is no parole in the federal prison system. With the exception of a small reduction for good behavior (a “good time credit”), the sentence you receive in federal court is the sentence you will serve. Unless your sentence or conviction is overturned, the only means by which you can reduce your sentence in the federal system is through a Rule 35(b) motion.
What Is a Federal Rule 35(b) Motion?
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) allows the government (prosecuting attorney) to ask the court to reduce your sentence by a certain percentage if, after sentencing, you provided the government with substantial assistance in either investigating or prosecuting another person. This can take the form of providing evidence about another crime, helping with an undercover prison investigation, or acting as a witness for the prosecution in another criminal matter. Typically, the court will hold a sealed hearing on the Rule 35(b) motion that allows both sides to argue their cases if the defendant believes he or she is entitled to a greater reduction than that proposed by the prosecution.
Benefits of Making a Rule 35(b) Motion
The primary benefit of having a Rule 35(b) motion granted is the substantial reduction in sentence most offenders receive. Typically, the sentence is reduced by 40 to 50 percent, which means a 10-year sentence can be reduced to five years. Further, one of the biggest benefits is that a Rule 35(b) ruling will override a criminal sentence that had a statutory mandatory minimum. That means if you were required to serve a 10-year sentence by law, not simply as a result of a judge’s discretion, your sentence can be reduced below 10 years.
Barriers to a Rule 35(b) Motion
Rule 35(b) itself has some restrictions, and it is important that the motion is made in accordance with the time frame set forth by Congress. If the motion is made within one year of sentencing, the defendant merely has to have provided substantial assistance to the government before or within that timeframe. If, however, the motion is made more than a year after sentencing, any substantial assistance provided must fall under one of the following categories:
- The information provided was not known to the defendant until after a year, meaning it may be something you learned in prison;
- The information was provided within a year of sentencing, but the government did not use the information until after that time; or
- Information that the offender had at the time of sentencing but could not have anticipated that information would be useful until after one year AND the information is promptly provided to the government.
Essentially, these restrictions are meant to encourage offenders to provide the government with what information they have immediately and discourage them from attempting to receive a reduction at a later date for information they knew would have been useful but did not promptly provide.
Contacting a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help the Rule 35(b) Process
As you are not entitled to a Rule 35(b) reduction and it is ultimately up to the judge to determine how much of a reduction should be granted, hiring a criminal defense attorney to advocate for you at your Rule 35(b) hearing can result in a greater reduction of your sentence. For example, your criminal defense attorney may be able to make a strong argument about the true value your information had in protecting the community, which the prosecution might not otherwise mention. If you believe you or a loved one may be entitled to a Rule 35(b) reduction, contact attorney Brian Zeiger today. He can work to review the specific facts of your case and help fight for your reduction. Call him today at 215-546-0340 for a confidential, no-risk consultation or find him online.