In most Federal Criminal cases, if a person is convicted, the sentence will be determined by using the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines were created by the U.S. Congress in the 1980s. The Guidelines were created with the goal of achieving uniformity in Federal criminal sentences across the United States.
In other words, if you are convicted and sentenced for participating in a Federal drug conspiracy case in the Eastern District of Texas, your sentence should be substantially like that of a similarly situated person in another part of the country.
The Guidelines are formulaic and they operate to calcuate a prison term using several criteria. Broadly speaking, these can be broken down into several categories.