Factors Considered in Determining Sentences

Factors Considered in Determining Sentences

When you’re charged with a crime, you’ll be taken to court within 48 hours according to the criminal procedure of our society. At this time, you’ll be read the charges against you and be able to enter a plea with the judge. There are three types of pleas that you can enter. These are guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you decide to plead not guilty, then you’ll be expected to have a later court date where the prosecutor will present the evidence and their case against you.

In the event that you have a later court date, you’ll typically have two options. You can stay in jail until your court date or you can pay bail and go back to living outside of jail. Most of the time, there are restrictions for those who opt for paying bail such as not leaving the state. In order to pay bail, you’ll likely need to go through the bail bonds process. This is where you pay only a small portion of your bail money upfront and the bail bonds agency foots the rest of the bill. When you show back up for your court date, all the money is returned to you and the bail bondsmen.

If you plead guilty at the first trial, the judge will set your sentence right then and there. If you go to a second trial at a later date and are found guilty by the jury, the judge will then set a sentence for you. When they make the decision about your criminal sentencing, they have a lot of options. They can restrict some of your rights and let you function in the outside world. Or, they can sentence you to inside confinement via jail for a set period of time. When deciding criminal sentencing to give you, a judge typically takes these different factors into consideration.

First Time Offender

We all tend to make mistakes from time to time. Many judges will take into account whether or not this is your first time being charged with the specific crime. If so, they will likely set your appropriate punishment much lighter than if you were a multi-offender of the same crime. The legal system is there to let you know what aggravating circumstances you need to avoid in the future to stay out of jail. When you ignore that warning and do the same thing twice or more, the judge will determine the punishment for a crime more heavily.

Personal Duress Or Stress

Most of us say that we would never commit a crime unless it was justified. Justified has a wide variety of meanings in the legal realm. One way that this justification is considered when crimes happen is the state of personal duress or mitigating circumstances the offender was under. For example, if your family was starving to death and you stole food from the grocery store, your personal duress of trying to keep your family from dying is going to play a role in the judge’s decision.

We all tend to make illogical decisions when we’re at times of high stress. Mandatory sentences don’t always make sense for this type of case with mitigating circumstances. A judge can help to consider the state of mind of the offender in their ultimate ruling of what sentence length is appropriate.

Being An Accessory

When imposing a sentence, a judge will take into consideration whether or not the offender was an accessory or the mastermind behind the crime. Typically, those who are not the main offender will receive a lighter sentence than those who were the main offender. This is up to the judge’s decision about what the appropriate punishment is for the offender.

The Crime Was Unlikely To Hurt Others

When deciding on mandatory sentences the criminal procedure will take into account whether or not anyone was harmed during the crime. To determine the punishment for a crime, those who injured others with aggravating circumstances will likely receive a heavier sentence than those who didn’t. Imposing a sentence for a crime where there was no intent to hurt others in the process can result in a lighter sentence.

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