Sentencing in criminal defense is obviously an important aspect because in Los Angeles county that's the time where the judge is going to decide what the punishment is going to be for whatever crime it is that an individual as committed.
Judge Orders Sentencing
What's interesting in Los Angeles county and a lot of the counties is that most of the time, the judge is going to do the sentencing. It's already a foregone conclusion. In other words, most cases in Los Angeles and elsewhere are negotiated between the prosecutor and the defense attorney and then the defendant agrees and the case is put in front of the judge for sentencing.
So, the judge, through a formality, is now going to do the sentencing and agree with what the prosecutor and defense attorney have come up with.
Of course, there are exceptions to that. If there is a jury trial and a person is found guilty, then the judge gets to sentence them. The prosecution can have their say. The defense attorney can have their say, but ultimately, the judge in that scenario controls the sentencing.
Other times, there's a plea and there's a top put on a case. For example, someone can plea to something and there would be a two-year top and the judge would decide. In that case, the judge would have power to decide to give the person up to two years. They could give them something less than two years, but that would give the judge some control as well.
If somebody violates their probation to the judge and the judge would control the sentencing in that situation. He or she would hear from both parties and then make the sentencing. As far as what is available for sentencing, there's all sorts of things that a judge can sentence.
They can sentence a person to prison. They can sentence them to jail. They can sentence them to probation, they can give them Caltrans, community service – there's a whole array of different punishments that are available to a criminal judge depending on what the person did, depending on what the person's criminal record is, depending on whether they injured somebody – and a host of other factors.
But again, are dependent upon the person's crime, who they affected and what their background looks like.
Criminal Defense Strategy in Sentencing
So, sentencing is very important. There is definitely a strategy to them depending on the case. If you have a situation where you or a loved one is going to be sentenced in a case, you've got to huddle up with your criminal defense attorney as quick as possible and make sure you get a plan for exactly how you're going to deal with the sentencing.
If the sentencing is up in the air and the judge is going to make a decision on it, then it's crucial that you get together the mitigating factors to get the best sentence possible in Los Angeles County – character letters, maybe witnesses to testify at the sentencing.
A lot of times I'll do a sentencing memorandum for the judge. There's oral argument at the sentencing. A lot times the person can also speak at the sentencing. Additionally, the victims can speak at the sentencing.
So, you've got to know the ground rules of a criminal sentencing in Los Angeles so that you can do whatever is necessary and possible to help your lawyer. If you don't know the rules, you're not going to be able to help, and also you want to know what your lawyer is going to do for you.
It's crucial that at sentencing, that's the time where everything has to be put together and you have to get the best possible result, because once the sentencing happens that's usually it. You can try to appeal. You can cry about it, but that's your sentence and you're going to have to live with it.
So, the key is to really be prepared and be ready to go when it comes to a criminal sentencing and to make sure that you get that result that you must have to get out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible and move on with your life.