In previous blogs, we discussed the purpose of federal sentencing guidelines, the reasoning of why they are used, and how your attorney may be able to reduce it below the mandatory minimum. 

The purpose of this article is to explain a second way in which you and your attorney can achieve this. And that is by cooperating with the government. Though they may appear straightforward, it takes a slight amount of unpacking to understand them fully. 

In exchange for a shorter sentence, the federal government wants “substantial assistance” that contributes to the investigation or prosecution of someone else. But what exactly constitutes substantial? And how does it have to be delivered?

The Breakdown

Look at it from the perspective of the government. If they have a large trial with several co-defendants, they want your cooperation or testimony to encourage the defendants to accept a plea agreement. The lack of a trial equates to money saved and time gained. 

If a trial is inevitable or underway, substantial assistance may be in the form of contributing with testimony that the government hopes will lead to a guilty verdict. Another example is if the government is developing a case against a person or group of people. Your testimony might be given in front of a grand jury in an attempt to obtain an indictment.


A common question is when all this occurs. Before sentencing? Afterward? The answer is both. The justification for such a reduction falls under Section 5K1.1 or Rule 35. If the cooperation has led to substantial assistance before a sentencing, then the government files a Section 5K1.1 before sentencing. However, if the cooperation is still ongoing and does not come to fruition until after sentencing, the motion for reduction of sentence, when filed, is known as Rule 35. 

Why are these motions necessary? Because once they have been approved by a judge, they are no longer bound to sentence you to the mandatory minimum. A critical piece to remember is that cases sometimes take years to build. And the information or testimony you offer may take some time to prove to be substantial. 

Puglisi Law

Ultimately, it will be up to the prosecuting attorney to file a motion for reduction in sentence and it will be up to them to determine if your information proved to be substantial. It is absolutely imperative that your attorney fight to get you the best sentence possible; and, if you are cooperating, that assistance should continue through to a filing of a motion and re-sentencing.

When cooperation is in your best interests, Puglisi Law will be there to ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your information. Contact Puglisi Law to schedule a free consultation.