The criminal justice system has a variety of components. A person who has allegedly committed a crime will usually face criminal charges. These can be resolved through a plea deal or a trial. When a trial is chosen, a jury of the person’s peers will hear the evidence and testimony before deciding if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
When a person is found guilty of charges, the judge will determine the sentence. There are many factors that go into this decision, so it isn’t always easy to guess what will happen ahead of time. If you are heading into a criminal trial, here are some points you need to know about sentencing:
A defendant’s criminal history can have a significant impact on the sentence. In some cases, having previous convictions for the same charge will require the court to follow specific increases in severity. Some charges have mandatory minimum sentences that must be imposed upon conviction.
There are some cases that might qualify for an alternative sentence. Drug cases, for example, may qualify for drug court instead of traditional sentences. Sometimes, these are handed down prior to a conviction so be sure to find out about them ahead of time if you are interested.
Circumstances of the crime
The factors of the crime directly affect the sentence. If you were the primary person involved in the criminal act, you may face a sentence that’s a bit harsher. If a person was injured or died, that will weigh heavily on it. In some instances, the circumstances of the crime might dictate that there is an enhanced penalty. For example, if you attack a police officer, the penalties would be increased due to the officer’s public servant status.
Statement from the defendant
Defendants are given the chance to speak for themselves during the sentencing phase of a trial. If you do this, you should be aware that what you say can have an impact on what sentence you are given. Additionally, any victims or their surviving family members may also make statements that can impact the sentence. Being remorseful might also have an impact on the sentence you face.
All defendants who are heading to trial should consider the impact of their defense on the sentence. Remembering the points previously mentioned may help as you plan your strategy.