Convicted of a crime how will my sentence be decided?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been arrested for armed robbery. I am wondering what will be the penalties and sentence if I am convicted and how the sentence is determined?” 

If you are arrested and charged with a crime you have the right to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. In most cases, if you decide plead guilty or you are found guilty after your criminal trial the judge will decide the appropriate punishment.

Factors influencing a judge’s decision

Although the judge in most states has some discretion in sentencing, some states have implemented sentencing guidelines or three strikes sentencing laws. Judges may also seek some input from other legal experts close to the case including the defense and the prosecution.

Sentencing and penalties can vary based on whether the charges were for a misdemeanor or for a felony and can include probation, fines, suspended sentence, deferred adjudication, community service, and jail time. Some cases may also allow for the penalties to be served concurrently. Some states also allow the death penalty for the most egregious and serious crimes.

Other factors considered by a judge prior to sentencing:

The judge will also generally have some discretion to consider other mitigating or aggravating factors. Not all criminals are the same and the reasons and motivations behind the crime may vary. Factors which can be considered prior to sentencing can also include:

  • Whether the convicted criminal has committed in prior crimes.
  • Whether the convicted criminal was directly involved in the crime or an accessory.
  • Whether the criminal was motivated by other outside factors such as duress or stress.
  • Whether another person was injured or killed during the crime.
  • Whether the crime was premeditated.
  • Whether the criminal showed remorse or regret following the crime.
  • Whether the criminal was especially cruel to the victim.

Can my sentence be enhanced?

Another consideration prior to sentencing is whether or not your sentence can be enhanced. For more information you will need to review the criminal statutes in your state, but in general, an enhancement will allow sentences for certain types of crimes and repeat offenders to more severe.

For example, if you committed a crime in some states and you had a gun rather than a knife, your time in prison could be enhanced or lengthened under a gun enhancement statute.

What are mandatory sentencing laws?

In an effort to standardize sentencing guidelines some states have implemented mandatory sentencing laws and guidelines. Although these laws can be controversial, they do ensure that all judges within a state impose the same penalties and sentences for criminals who have committed the same crime. They also eliminate the propensity of some judges to be too lenient on some criminals.

What should I do after I am arrested for a crime?

Steps should be taken immediately following a criminal arrest. First, you need to consult with a criminal defense lawyer prior to pleading guilty or talking to the prosecution about your crime.

Next, make sure you understand the laws of your state. This is especially true if you have committed multiple crimes and your state has a three strikes law. States which currently have this type of law include the following: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Although three strike laws vary by state, regardless of the state in which you live the penalties in these states can be very severe, and in some cases, may include a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Should I accept a plea deal after my criminal arrest?

Although it might be tempting to immediately accept a plea deal following your arrest and charge, it’s always best to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer. This is especially true if you have been charged with a serious crime such as a felony.

Consider, your lawyer is an expert at negotiating the best plea deal possible. After you have pled guilty you have lost your negotiating power.


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