A person who’s facing criminal charges needs to think carefully about their options and their defense strategy. One factor that might play a role in how you handle your defense is what type of sentence you’re facing if you’re convicted.
Understanding what the court considers when setting a sentence may benefit you as you go forward and help you make informed decisions.
What are the sentencing guidelines?
States have sentencing guidelines for specific crimes, which can vary rather broadly. Depending upon your conviction, the guidelines can include incarceration, fines and other options. The court will likely start with this when trying to set a sentence.
But that’s not where the court stops. Other factors that can be considered when setting a sentence may include:
- Any prior criminal history you may have of similar crimes
- The specifics of the crime, including what real damage was done to the victims
- Whether you have shown remorse or there are other mitigating circumstances
Even your occupation can be a factor in the court’s decision. For example, a police officer or doctor — both of whom hold positions of great responsibility and trust in our society — may be judged more severely than someone else.
The court may also consider your mental state and similar factors at the time of the offense. If, for example, you were suffering from an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness that affected your reasoning, that could also mitigate your sentence.
Are there alternative sentences available?
Courts can sometimes have alternative sentences available. These include things like probation, drug court, and similar programs. There are often strict requirements for people to be able to enter into these alternative sentences. If you think that you’re eligible for one of the alternative sentence options, let your attorney know so they can find out.
Discussing the specific components of your case with your defense attorney can help you find out what options you have. Doing this early in the case gives you time to carefully consider each one so you can make the decisions you feel are in your best interests.