Criminal charges come with a lot of questions. One of the primary ones that comes up is related to the sentence that you face. This is completely understandable because the sentence can have a significant impact on your future.
There are several factors that the court considers after a conviction, so be sure to carefully plan your defense with an experienced attorney. You should understand these factors so that you can determine how your case might be impacted.
Circumstances of the crime
The circumstances of the crime can impact the sentence. Crimes against certain people, including police officers, often carry sentences that are a bit harsher than if the crime was committed against a civilian. Charges that are considered aggravated, such as aggravated assault, will have penalties that are harsher than those that aren't considered aggravated.
Guidelines for the conviction
Certain guidelines exist for sentencing on various convictions. While judges do have considerable leeway on sentencing, the total sentence will need to fall within the guidelines. Sentencing guidelines usually have an assortment of penalties available, such as incarceration, probation and fines. Knowing these guidelines ahead of time prepares you to deal most effectively with what's to come.
Mandatory minimum sentences (when applicable)
Some criminal convictions have mandatory minimum sentences. This means that the judge has to issue at least that sentence upon a conviction. The judge doesn't have leeway to issue less than the mandatory minimum. Often, certain drug convictions and violent crime convictions are associated with these mandatory minimum sentences.
Criminal history of the defendant
Your criminal history, or lack of criminal history, can impact your sentence. If you have already been convicted of the same crime in a previous case, your sentence might be a bit harsher. Some judges tend to show leniency for people who are convicted of a crime if they haven't been involved in the criminal justice system before. Of course, the other sentencing factors still come into the picture here.
Other factors, such as the availability and suitability of alternative sentences, can also come into the picture. In some cases, drug court or probation might be deemed more appropriate than incarceration. This is usually a judgment call of the judge. If you are able to work out a plea deal with the prosecution, the terms of the plea deal are also considered when the court determines the sentence for a criminal conviction.