The Benefit of One-on-One Discussions with your Criminal Defense Attorney
If you plead guilty or are convicted of a crime, the next step in the criminal justice process is sentencing. Whether your sentence is something that is agreed upon with the District Attorney or a decision to made by the Judge, this can be a scary process with major consequences. Depending on many factors, even minor crimes can call for jail time. Just because you commit a crime doesn’t mean that you will, or have to, go to jail. Knowing what is considered in determining a sentence and what a lawyer can do for you is very important.
Once convicted, you could be sentenced to probation, house arrest, work release, jail, or some combination of them all. Your sentence will be based off your offense gravity score – a number from 1 to 14 assigned by statute representing the severity of the offense – and your prior record score – a calculation of points from 0 to 5 (with some additional designations) representing your criminal history. These two variables are used to govern your guideline range of sentences. The District Attorney or Judge will use this guideline range to make a plea offer or determine your sentencing.
When a person is sentenced, other factors should be considered than just the crime committed and his/her criminal history. In Pennsylvania, unlike the federal system, a person’s entire criminal history is used to calculate their prior record score. This means that if you committed a crime 25 years ago, that is being used to increase your sentence. If this doesn’t seem fair, that’s because its not. A crime you committed, were sentenced to, and served your time for 25 years ago should not be a basis to judge who you are as a person now.
Having the right lawyer to argue on your behalf to a District Attorney or Judge can be very crucial to mitigating your sentence and getting you less jail time or no jail time at all. It is important that when you hire a lawyer you have discussions above and beyond your actual criminal allegations. Knowing background of your family life, mental health status, any drug and alcohol addictions, work history, schooling, etc. can be vital to the outcome of your case. Knowing this information may make you eligible for certain diversionary programs such as Drug Court, DUI Court, or Mental Health Court. These programs attempt to treat the person and his/her issues rather than focusing purely on punishment. More importantly, your lawyer can use this information to humanize you to a District Attorney or Judge enabling them to see you as a person who made a mistake as opposed to another criminal who needs to be punished. This background of a person is not being used an excuse for any criminal conduct; rather, it is used to show that good people can make mistakes or that good people can be forced into bad circumstances.
With stricter laws being enforced year after year, the need for strong representation is key. It is important to highlight the good a person has in a criminal case while not ignoring the bad. For years I have used this information for the benefit of my clients. Having in depth conversations about the person I am representing not only aids in building trust with my clients but it can be the difference between a felony or misdemeanor charge or jail and no jail.
Email Attorney Jonathan R. White for a free criminal defense consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org