What Factors Do Judges Consider at Sentencing?

The majority of criminal cases are resolved via some sort of negotiated plea deal. Many times, the defendant must enter a plea of guilty in order to benefit from a plea offer made by the prosecuting attorneys office. After a person is convicted of a particular crime, whether through a guilty plea or jury verdict, the appropriate legal punishment is determined at the sentencing phase of the criminal process. During this phase, a judge usually has some level of discretion in fashioning the appropriate punishment for a particular crime.

A number of different kinds of punishment may be imposed on a convicted criminal defendant, including: 1) fines, 2) prison and/or jail time, 3) death sentence in some States, 4) active or inactive probation, 5) a suspended sentence which takes effect only if conditions such as probation is violated, 6) payment of restitution to the victim of the criminal act, 7) community service and/or 8) drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Sentencing usually takes place almost immediately after convictions for infractions and minor misdemeanors, or when a defendant has pled guilty. In more complex criminal cases, such as those involving serious felonies, the sentencing judge usually receives input from the prosecutor, the defense, and the probation department (which prepares recommendations in a pre-sentence report or sometimes known as a PSI). Moreover, some states have established special drug courts which are controlled by judges and which focus on rehabilitating, rather than incarcerating drug offenders.

The sentencing judge typically has a range of sentences already set forth in a criminal statute; and in some jurisdictions (including federal sentencing guidelines), mandatory minimum sentences may apply. However, the judge can also consider a number of other case-specific factors, including: The defendant’s criminal history, or lack thereof; The nature of the crime, the manner in which it was committed, and the impact on victims and The defendant’s personal, economic, and social circumstances; and

The sentencing phase will focus on these types of aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding the crime when determining the appropriate sentence. Evidence of these factors at the sentencing phase could come in the form of testimony from the defendant or from family members of the defendant or victim.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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