Federal Sentencing Tips (Personal Narrative vs Sentencing Memorandum)

Before I went for a run in Santa Monica last week, I received the following text message from a defendant who pled guilty to a white collar crime:

““Dude, so bummed. I watched your videos about the personal narrative. I told my lawyer I wanted to write one before sentencing in November. He told me not to bother because he is turning in a sentencing memorandum. What do I do? I thought the Judge would want to hear from me and not just my lawyer?? Advice please!!””

In this video, I talk about the difference between the personal narrative and the sentencing memorandum. I also express why every defendant must invest the time to create their personal sentencing narrative.

Federal Sentencing Tips: Write your personal sentencing narrative with an audience of one in mind: your sentencing judge. Begin with your judge’s perspective.

  • What can you create to ensure your judge sees you as a human being rather than a defendant?
  • Your Judge will want to know how you identify with victims.
  • Your Judge will want to know the influences that led you into this crime.
  • Your Judge will want to know what you learned from the experience.
  • Your Judge will want to know what steps you’re taking to reconcile with society.
  • Your Judge will want to know you are remorseful.
  • Your Judge will want to how you have contributed to the lives of others.

Here are some tips to consider as you work with your defense lawyer on your sentencing memorandum:

  • Focus on effective storytelling rather than just points/categories.
  • Weave in your personal narrative and character reference letters into the memorandum.
  • Facts are a stubborn thing: Focus on facts and avoid unnecessary exaggerations.
  • Good writing is good editing: Make sure you have plenty of time to work on the document with your lawyer.
  • Ask your lawyer to share other memorandums they have written. Many lawyers will not share one: just ask them to block out their client’s name and private information.

To close, you must create a powerful personal sentencing narrative that will add to or augment the sentencing memorandum your defense attorney will write.If you have questions about your personal sentencing narrative, feel free to reach out. I can be reached at 818-424-2220 or through email at JP@WhiteCollarAdvice.com.

Justin Paperny