Presumptive Sentence Law and Legal Definition

Sentencing guidelines are based on the belief that punishment should be more severe for more serious crimes and more severe for repeat offenders. Sentencing guidelines set a "presumptive" sentence based on the severity of the crime and also on the offender's record of prior convictions.

Under specific mitigating circumstances, the judge can reduce the sentence by ordering a downward departure from the presumptive sentence. Under specific aggravating circumstances, the judge can order an upward departure from the presumptive sentence, thereby increasing the sentence. However, the presumptive sentence is imposed most of the time.