One of the most pressing matters for many people who are facing a criminal charge is finding out what type of sentence they may have to deal with if they’re convicted. For some, this becomes the focus of their criminal defense strategy because they want to minimize the sentence.
There are many things that you should know about sentencing because it’s not always as clear-cut as some people make it seem.
#1: Judges usually determine the sentence
Some people mistakenly think that the jury determines the sentence in a criminal trial, but this isn’t the case. Judges usually determine the sentence, although they may be limited by law on upper and lower limits. (There are other exceptions, too, such as when the death penalty is involved.)
#2: Sentencing guidelines must be followed
Charges have specific sentencing guidelines that the judge must follow. This includes suggested minimum sentences they can hand down. It also includes information about when a mandatory minimum comes into the picture — and what maximum penalty is allowed.
#3: Extenuating factors can enhance or mitigate penalties
Some criminal charges have circumstances that can lead to enhanced penalties. This is common for violent crimes when there are vulnerable victims. This often encompasses the elderly, children, and some public servants. By the same token, mitigating factors can be used to convince the court to be lenient and impose a minimal sentence.
Anyone who’s facing criminal charges needs to learn about what sentences they’re facing. This may help them to determine what type of criminal defense strategy they’re going to use. It’s best to do this early in the case so you aren’t trying to rush at the last minute to determine what to do.