If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, understanding what sentence you could face is crucial. You cannot afford to rely on what the prosecution tells you. They may try to convince you to take a plea deal by telling you that, if you don’t accept, they will push for a particularly harsh sentence. The reality is that what they want could be far harsher than a judge is likely to decide.
Are judges free to choose the sentence they please, or is it all spelled out for them in state laws? It’s a bit of both:
The state sets the boundaries
The laws related to a particular crime usually say something like “from 12 to 30 months in prison.” Or for something much less serious, they might say, “a fine of between $500 and $1,000.” In some cases, they allow judges to choose between jail time, fines or other options or to use a combination such as a month behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
Sometimes, however, the state sets a minimum sentence for a crime, and the choice for a judge is whether to stick to it or increase it.
Factors they will consider when determining the sentence include the following:
- If you have been in trouble with the police before
- If anyone else influenced you to commit the crime
- If you appear to be sorry
- If anyone got hurt
- The manner the crime was carried out
The best sentence is, of course, none at all. Seek legal help to examine how you might beat a criminal charge or at least keep any sentence issued to a minimum.