One of the first things a person facing criminal charges wants to know is what type of sentence they’re facing. The most straightforward answer is, “It depends on a variety of factors.”
It’s often possible to make an educated guess about what will happen with a sentence. Knowing what sentencing factors apply in any given case might make this a bit easier.
What factors does the court consider?
It’s up to the judge in the case to determine how to sentence a defendant once they’ve been convicted of a crime. The starting point is usually the potential sentencing requirements for the particular charge, but the judge may also ask for an evaluation that takes into account all mitigating and aggravating factors in the case. From there, the court will likely look at these:
- The defendant’s criminal history, particularly similar convictions
- Any extenuating personal circumstances such as being under great duress
- The level of cruelty, if any, to the victim of the crime
- Whether the defendant was the main party committing the crime or an accessory
- The result of the crime, including personal injury or property damage
Some crimes, particularly violent crimes, may have laws about enhanced penalties if the victim is in a specific group. For example, law enforcement officers, public servants, the elderly and the disabled usually have special consideration during sentencing. Before the sentencing occurs, the defendant will have a chance to make a statement. This should only be done in some instances as a judge may be lenient if a defendant shows remorse for their actions; however, a statement could have an adverse impact as well. Defendants must ensure they understand what possible sentences they’re facing and how to focus on the best outcome. Some may set a defense goal of minimizing those penalties. Working with someone who knows how to handle these cases is critical.