This concept of alternative sentencing a lot of people don't really understand what it is or what it means. I've been doing this for twenty-five years and when I hear people talking about alternative sentencing, they're usually talking about a situation where they're facing a crime in one of the Los Angeles courts and they don't like the sentence that's being proposed.
Maybe it's jail time or maybe it's prison. It could be a whole slew of different reasons why they don't like the sentencing scheme that's being offered to them by the prosecutor or the judge and their criminal defense attorneys having to mention to them. So, they start talking about alternative sentencing.
California Community Service and Diversion Programs
Really what this means is that they want some other sentence other than what they're getting. A lot of times this will come in the form of obviously, not going to jail. So, there's things like community service, Caltrans and there's a bunch of different programs that people can do — again, depending on the crime and depending on the circumstances of the case.
Another alternative sentence that I see people are talking about is trying to avoid a conviction for a criminal case that's going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. So, some alternative sentencing has to do with diversion programs or programs designed to basically allow you to end up with a result in your criminal case where you're not getting convicted — where you're able to get the stigma attached to a crime off, assuming that you do certain things and a certain amount of time passes.
This could be anywhere from one to three years. I've even seen it as long as five years where you're on probation. You're ordered to do certain things. You may be ordered to abstain from doing certain things, and if you follow the rules and don't have any other problems, then a resolution can be set up which allows you to get rid of your conviction.
Now, there's a bunch of different Penal Code sections that have been passed by Governor Brown, which you can even get your record sealed and destroyed, whereas before you would never be able to do that.
This is a good time for alternative sentencing, but just the term alternative sentencing doesn't really mean anything. If you say that to a prosecutor like, can I get some alternative sentencing, they're going to look at the criminal defense attorney like, what are you talking about? So, this is not really an office term.
This is just a term people are using out there because they're not happy with their sentence scheme. Sometimes people get sentenced and they're trying to change that and get some sort of an alternate sentence. That's obviously a very difficult thing to do. You'd have to withdraw your plea and then the prosecutor and judge would have to agree to give you a different sentence, which they are not likely to do because they've already given you a sentence and they feel that was a fair sentence in your particular case.
California Alternative Sentencing Requirements
So, if you're looking this concept up of alternative sentencing, really what you need to do is sit down with a criminal defense attorney who has done a lot of criminal cases in the courthouse where your case is pending and tell them what your concerns are regarding a potential sentence in your case. Maybe you don't even know what the sentence could be and you're already looking for an alternate sentence. Why don't you just get the sentence that you want in the first place?
Or maybe you're in the middle of being offered some sort of a deal where you see that the sentence you're going to get is going to be something that you do not want. That happens all the time in criminal defense. Nobody wants to go to jail. Nobody wants to go to prison. Nobody wants to be put on probation.
Nobody wants to have to pay money or do Caltrans or do domestic violence courses or whatever the proposed punishment is. So, in that case, you either go to your current attorney and talk to them about it and see what they say. If you're not satisfied with that, go to another attorney. Tell them what the situation is.
What I ask is, which court are you in? Who's the judge? What does your criminal record look like? What did you do? Who was impacted?
Then I can get a pretty good feel for what the proposed sentence is something you're not going to be able to get out of. Sometimes they just offer some general sentence and nobody actually goes in there and shows them the alternate facts that are available to change that sentence — whether it being the Public Defender is just not doing their job or some other attorney is not doing their job, or it could be that the Public Defender and other attorney are doing their job, but the prosecutor or judge just say no.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
So, as a defense attorney, I have to figure out, what else can I do? Who can I go to? Whatever evidence can I uncover? What investigation can I do to get that resolved for the client? That's what I'm doing all the time and there's a lot of those gray area cases where we're just simply not sure whether we can do it. Contact the Hedding Law Firm to review your case.
The only way we can find out is loading up all the information, loading up the ammunition and going in there and making the argument. I do that all the time and I get results all the time.
Sometimes you run out of rope and the prosecutor and judge tell you to go pound sand and say listen, if you don't want to take that deal, if you don't want to take that sentence then take the case to trial.
You've got to get in front of a criminal defense attorney who knows what they're doing, who's local to the court where your case is pending if you want to try to get an alternate sentence so that you're satisfied that the end result is fair and you can move on with your life in a positive direction.