Methods of Reducing a Criminal Sentence
Criminal defense has many facets. Attorneys spend a lot of time fighting in court, attempting to preserve their clients’ freedom, but that isn’t’ all that they do. They also work hard to help reduce a criminal sentence for someone who is found guilty.
Even with a strong case, you can still lose your trial. With a good defense, however, you may be able to escape some of the harsher penalties associated with your alleged crime.
To avoid expensive, time-consuming trials, prosecutors often attempt to make a deal with an alleged offender. It works like this: If you plead guilty (the “plea”), they will try to convince the judge to give you a lighter sentence (the “bargain”).
If the case against you is strong, or if you simply want to plead guilty, a plea bargain may be a good option. Because of your apparent cooperation, the court may be merciful and go with a lighter sentence.
Keep in mind, however, that a plea bargain is not a guarantee. The judge could still choose to give you a harsher sentence, regardless of your cooperation. Also, a pleading guilty cannot be reversed. Depending on the crime, a guilty plea could stay on your criminal record forever.
Furthermore, since you’re pleading guilty, you’re admitting that you committed the crime. For some, that carries a strong emotional weight, and you may wish to fight for your innocence in court. You’re also incapable of questioning any police misconduct. Regardless of how they behaved, you’re agreeing that you broke the law.
Before taking a plea bargain, have a long talk about your case with your attorney. If they think a plea bargain is the best move, take that advice into strong consideration. However, remember that you always have a right to defend yourself, and if you want to battle your case in court, your attorney should go along with those wishes.
Proving Mitigating Circumstances
Sometimes, the court can have mercy on a defendant, even when that person appears completely guilty. Human nature can cause people to make bad choices, especially when unexpected circumstances arise. Outside situations that influence criminal behavior are called mitigating circumstances.
If the prosecution has a strong case, and it looks like a guilty verdict is inevitable, your attorney may be able to prove that situations beyond the crime call for a lighter sentence.
Mitigating Circumstances Around the Crime Itself
There are a few different tactics your attorney can use to argue that the crime does not demand a hard penalty.
No Real Harm Was Done
Imagine a mugger who stops someone in an alley. They pull a knife and ask for their victim’s wallet. Upon receiving the wallet, they realize it’s empty, and they let the victim keep the wallet and leave.
Certainly, there was an intent to mug the victim, and the offender definitely committed armed assault. However, no one was ultimately hurt, and nothing was even stolen. In a situation like this, it may be possible for an attorney to ask for a lighter sentence.
The Victim Is Also Responsible
Let’s take the same scenario above, but let’s flip the victim and the attacker. Picture someone walking along, minding their own business. Along comes a mugger, brandishing a knife and demanding their wallet. The victim knocks the knife from the mugger’s hand and proceeds to beat them mercilessly. This would-be victim is suddenly charged with aggravated battery.
Legally, this person did the wrong thing. You cannot use disproportionate force to defend yourself. However, this person didn’t randomly attack someone. The mugger would never have been harmed if he hadn’t initiated the situation. This is an example of “victim culpability,” and it can be used to ask for a lighter sentence.
Operating Under Duress
If you were threatened into committing a crime, you can argue that you were coerced. The court may still hold you responsible, but since you had been forced, it may choose to give you a lighter sentence.
Mitigating Circumstances Around the Alleged Offender
Sometimes, an attorney must shine a positive light on the alleged offender. Here are some examples of how the accused criminal’s personal circumstances could affect their sentence.
Long-term addiction can permanently affect someone’s decision-making abilities. Simply being under the influence of a substance also alters your judgement. If you’ve been struggling with addiction, you may be able to have your sentence reduced to probation with court-ordered treatment.
If you have an otherwise clean record and find yourself in trouble for a single offense, this could work in your favor. If the court believes that you don’t pose a continued threat and that rehabilitation will be effective, it can give you a lighter sentence.
High Levels of Cooperation
If you agree to work closely with the police, they may start to trust that you want to do the right thing. This is especially true if you help them track down any codefendants. They may start to see you as one of the team, and they might argue in your defense, asking the court to keep your sentence light.
Mental Health Issues
If you suffered a momentary mental health concern, and it caused you to commit an illegal act, you may be able to receive a reduced sentence.
Keep in mind, however, that this is not the same thing as an insanity plea. Those are strictly reserved for people with genuine, debilitating mental illness. They are not simply let go back into society. Normally, they are relegated to high-security mental health facilities. While technically not prisons, their inmates cannot simply come and go. They are sentenced to be there, and their behavior and freedoms are closely monitored.
What we’re discussing here is a temporary health that caused a momentary lapse in judgement. You are still considered guilty of the crime, but your mental state at the time could be cause for a lighter sentence.
If you’ve been accused of a crime, contact our firm for help. We are here to defend your rights in court, and we can help argue for a reasonable sentence if you are convicted. For a free consultation, reach out to us online, or call us at (561) 475-2752.