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Know what factors affect sentencing

A criminal sentence after a conviction must be taken seriously. The court considers several factors when determining a defendant's sentence. It might behoove defendants to know these points as they prepare their criminal defenses.

One of the primary factors that judges consider is the nature of the charge on which the defendant was convicted. Almost all charges have sentencing guidelines to which the court must adhere. In some cases, offenses have strict sentencing requirements. Mandatory minimum sentences are an example of a situation in which the court doesn't have any choice but to impose a specific sentence.

The defendant's criminal history also comes into the picture when a judge hands down a sentence. A first-time offender will likely get a lighter sentence than someone who has previous arrests for the same charge. Similar charges and prior, unrelated interactions with the criminal justice system might also be considered.

The severity of the crime is also a factor. Violent elements of the crime might cause a defendant to get sentenced more harshly than someone whose crime was without violence. It is necessary to look closely at how the court might interpret the facts of the case before coming up with a defense plan to address any alleged violence.

Defendants have the right to speak up for themselves before they are sentenced. This, if it occurs, can have an impact on sentencing. It is another touchy area of a criminal defense strategy that must be carefully weighed. Overall, the entire criminal defense should reflect the possible sentence to ensure that defendants pursue the best strategy.

Source: FindLaw, "Factors Considered in Determining Sentences," accessed Jan. 26, 2018

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