Typically this means that the person will do 15 years plus an additional 17+5 years before they are eligible for parole. There is good time credit but it is very limited in the federal system.
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It means someone is going to do a lot of time. Usually the defendant does the determinate sentence first, then starts the life sentence. So in this case, that means 22 years goes first and after that sentence is completed, the defendant starts the 15 to life sentence.
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This is yet another example that what appears to be a relatively simple question is not simple to answer unless ALL the facts and an actual (not a paraphrasing) review of the court record is conducted by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
A determination of sentencing law must be methodically considered.
A cursory review of what good lawyers do every day will not serve you in this case.
Consult an experienced federal criminal defense in this and in all cases.
Of course, every answer is based on the question asked and requires a more complete context. This answer should not be relied upon to make a legal decision. Seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney before acting. Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd. Defenders of the Constitution since 1975/ Aggressive Creative Defense Strategies/ Website: www.waaltd.com 24/7 --(708) 481-4800.