Begins at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 30 through 12:00 p.m. on Friday, June 1, 2018
Grand Hyatt San Antonio
600 East Market Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
Information regarding this seminar will be e-mailed to judges in February 2018.
Who Should Attend the National Seminar?
Attendees of the National Seminar include judges, probation officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, law clerks, and academics from across the country. Are you new to federal court? We would love to have you! We provide training for all types of practitioners at all levels of experience. For those with less experience with federal sentencing, we strongly recommend that before attending the seminar, you complete three interactive online courses. Federal Sentencing: The Basics provides an overview of the federal sentencing system, and is based on the primer of the same name. Basic Relevant Conduct and Basic Criminal History will also be available and will provide an important overview of two important aspects of guideline application. These intro-level courses are being placed on line to make room for new and exciting topics.
Why Should You Attend?
Our programs utilize active learning methods to educate practitioners on all aspects of federal sentencing. We create scenarios using real cases, and encourage you to work through them in a safe learning environment. Instructors encourage questions from the audience throughout the presentations but we promise not to call on you without your permission!
There is no cost to register and pre-approval for CLE accreditation has been made to all state bar associations.
What Have Others Said About Our Training Programs?
“Use of interactive training, examples, and scenarios was extremely helpful. Much better than lecture format. This practical application facilitates learning.” - Probation Officer
“The fact patterns and mini tests are excellent ways of helping me retain and process the information.” - Judge
“I believe it is very important for USPOs to attend the National Seminar at least every few years to keep up with the constant changes in the guidelines. The presenters are always the most effective part of the training. Their knowledge base and experience is first rate.” - Probation Officer
“Thank you for section focusing on white collar crime and for the specific Fifth Circuit law.” - Prosecutor
“I use the workbook provided to us at the conference all the time.” - Probation Officer
“Frankly great session. In my 25 years of practice this is the first CLE that I learned and enjoyed every section of it. Thanks.” - Defense Attorney
“Thanks for clarifying several misconceptions! Great training - love the response cards!” - Probation Officer
“Very helpful and informative. I enjoyed the audience participation with the clickers.” - Law Clerk
“Covered very good information in laymen's terms. Clear and understandable. Good examples.” - Probation Officer
“I wanted to express my appreciation for your preparation in the training of the Drugs and Guns guidelines and related issues last week. I had sentencing yesterday and the contested issue was mainly the 4-level enhancement for gun trafficking. The Court determined it applied in our case. I used several of your handouts to assist the Judge in making his decision and he expressed his appreciation for my help to my supervisor. I have never been so grateful for the training in my career as I was yesterday.” - Probation Officer
What Will Be Covered This Year?
What’s Bitcoin and what does it have to do with federal sentencing?
Our emerging technology session will cover Bitcoin and much more. By popular demand, Emerging Technologies has been expanded to encompass four 90-minute segments. Topics addressed will include cryptocurrency (including Bitcoin) and how it has been used to facilitate crime and avoid detection, marketplace offenses, such as drug trafficking on the dark web, and hacking, malware, and ransomware offenses, as well as unauthorize access to computers, aggravated identity theft, and child sexual abuse. Guidelines issues covered will include victim-related adjustments, criminal conduct occurring outside the United States, and obstruction of justice, among others.
I don’t get grouping at all.
Not a problem! At the session on grouping of multiple counts of conviction, participants will use the multiple counts decision tree to apply the grouping rules to several real-life scenarios to determine a single offense level for cases involving multiple counts of conviction. You will use the decision tree time and time again after the seminar. We promise!
What is the judge thinking?
Find out what the judge is thinking, or at least how a few federal judges view sentencing and advocacy. At our “Tips from the Bench” plenary session, a diverse panel of district court judges will answer recurring questions about best practices and procedures related to sentencing. Submit your questions anonymously prior to the session.
What do I need to know about the BOP before the defendant goes there?
The majority of federal offenders receive a sentence of imprisonment. BOP officials will be present to explain the designation process, discuss available programs, and explain how eligibility for programs is decided. Other questions that will be answered include: How does the BOP use the presentence report and judicial recommendations to decide who qualifies for treatment and other programs? Does it matter if the court recommends a specific program?
Can I get my ethics credit?
Yes, you can! The last session of the seminar is for attorneys in search of CLE in ethics. The panel will use realistic hypothetical cases to cover the primary rules of legal ethics generally applicable to defense counsel and prosecutors in criminal cases.
I just got my first gang case. How do I know what time the defendant is facing?
A new course on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations guideline will explain it all from start to finish using case-based scenarios.
I can’t keep up with all the case law on sentencing and the guidelines, and I still don’t understand the categorical approach. Can someone make it easy for me?
Well, maybe not easy, but a little bit easier. We will offer a full day of case law updates on crucial topics like the categorical approach, circuit conflicts, restitution, and supervised release conditions.
How do I get the information I want into the presentence report?
A diverse panel with experience in social work, interviewing, litigation, and supervision, will discuss evolving best practices for obtaining this information and ensuring it is accurately described in the presentence report.
I write presentence reports using guidelines every day and I see room for improvement. Is anyone listening?
Yes! The Probation Officers Advisory Group (POAG) and the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) want your feedback! In the last session of the seminar on Friday, probation officers will form small groups to discuss sentencing issues and recommended policy priorities for the Commission. Make your voice heard! Don’t miss this interactive session with your fellow officers.
How do I get a sentence outside the guidelines range?
A new session will address departures and variances, as well as the importance of the Statement of Reasons form, which courts are required to complete and file after every sentencing. What’s the purpose of all the checkboxes, how is it filled it out, and what happens to it? For litigators, how do I get to the sentence I want? This session will address some of the Commission’s publications that have been of interest to litigators, probation officers and judges, including the career offender, recidivism, and child pornography offender reports. Learn the possible relevance of this information to sentencing.
Does a plea to conspiracy mean the defendant is responsible for everything everyone did? That (does) (doesn’t) seem fair!
A new session on relevant conduct in multi-defendant cases will clear up many misconceptions about the way relevant conduct works under the guidelines. If you think relevant conduct under the guidelines is “the same as Pinkerton,” think again. Learn about proper guideline application in these complex cases before you offer or accept a plea agreement, or calculate the offense level in a PSR. Case-based scenarios will also address mitigating role– when should it apply and who should get the benefit.
Is there any session about organizational cases?
Yes! Our instructors will discuss the components of an organizational sentencing, including restitution, fines, and terms and conditions of probation. Attendees will use scenarios to practice applying the Organizational Guidelines in Chapter Eight of the Guidelines Manual.
How can I access the Guidelines Manual without buying (carrying around) a copy?
Throughout the seminar, Commission staff will be available to help you download the new guidelines mobile app, which will be released in the Spring. Swing by and learn how to access the Guidelines Manual mobile app on your cell phone, mobile device, or laptop, and stay for a real-time demo of this exciting new product.
This looks interesting, but how do I decide what sessions to go to?
After our Commissioners open the seminar on Wednesday morning, our trainers will take the stage for an interactive overview of the seminar topics. Answer right or wrong anonymously using the “clickers” to help determine which sessions you should attend.
I have a bunch of random questions. Can I just get some help?
Of course! Commission training staff will be on-hand throughout the seminar to answer your guideline and federal sentencing practice questions. Just come up the the HelpLine Live desk and ask away!
Photos from 2017 Seminars
The USSC will hold its 2018 National Seminar in San Antonio, TX from May 30 to June 1, 2018. A "Judges Only" training seminar will be held in San Francisco, CA from June 21 to June 22, 2018.