If you have been convicted of a crime, California criminal law provides the defense and the prosecutions an opportunity to be heard in regards to sentencing.
Our role as your criminal lawyer is very important during the sentencing hearing. This is where we present any mitigating circumstances to lower your sentence and the prosecution attempts to present aggravating circumstances to keep the sentence as is.
As a defendant, you have the legal right to be present for sentencing, the right to be represented by an attorney and have us present at the sentencing, the right to present evidence, and the right to propose alternative sentencing, and more legal rights you are entitled to that we will discuss with you and explain to you.
Typically, witnesses do not speak at sentencing hearings. However, as with any rule, there are exceptions. Many times, especially in more serious cases, the victim of the case is allowed to give a victim impact statement. The judge will also listen if the defendant wants to say anything or give any type of statement. You need to understand what happens at a sentencing hearing in Los Angeles.
As criminal defense lawyers, we make sure to do everything we can to get you the lowest sentence possible post conviction.
An issue that may arise is if you are convicted of two or more crimes, the judge must decide whether the sentences will run consecutively or concurrently. We will fight to get your sentences to run concurrently, meaning at the same time, to save some years of your life. There are other factors that play a role in sentencing hearings and we are ready, willing, and available to answer your questions and to be an advocate for you.
What Determines Your Sentence in a Los Angeles Criminal Case?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal case in LA, obviously one of your big concerns is going to be what the sentence is going to be. The reason for that is because a sentence basically includes what your punishment is. In other words, are you going to go to jail? Are you going to go to prison?
Are you going to be put on probation? Are you going to have a bunch of time suspended over your head? Are you going to be ordered to do classes? Are you going to be ordered to do Caltrans community service? What exactly is the punishment going to be? There's a whole slew of different punishments depending on the exact type of case you have.
For example, in a sex crime case, one of the biggest punishments that people want to try to avoid is having to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life and being put on the Megan's Law website. If you're being charged with a murder case, you're trying to avoid a life sentence. In other words, a sentence that has life pushed on the back of it. If you're being charged with a felony DUI, you're trying to avoid losing your license for many years, being sentenced to prison because you've hurt somebody during that DUI.
I can go on and on and on about these sentences. As you're probably starting to gather, a sentence if particular to a defendant. In other words, it's not going to be the same sentence for every single defendant. In addition to looking at the type of crime you've committed, which is obviously very important, they're also going to look at the type of person you are.
Are we dealing with somebody who has no criminal record? Has never gotten even a jay-walking ticket or a speeding ticket? Or are we dealing with somebody who has a very bad career criminal record or are we dealing with somebody in the middle, and that's one of the biggest factors — what type of person are we dealing with.
Because really what the prosecutors and what judges do when they look at a sentence for a person in Los Angeles in a criminal case, they're going to look at, what did we do to this person the last time they did something bad and are they doing the same type of activity?
If they're going the same type of activity and we sent that person to county jail, this time we're going to send him to prison and we're going to send him for a longer period of time. That's the type of mentality you're dealing when you start to assess what a particular sentence is going to be.
Evaluating Damages to Victim
Other factors that they look at, they're going to look at the type of damage that the defendant caused to a particular victim in a case. Did the victim lose thousands of dollars that defendant can't replace? Was the victim seriously injured to such a degree that they're going to have permanent injuries that are irreplaceable?
In other words, you can't put them back in the place that they were. These are the types of things that drive a sentence in a particular criminal case. What happened to the victim? What role did the defendant play in that? Are there multiple defendants in a case or is it just one?
These are the type of considerations that judges and prosecutors have. No one thing when it comes to Los Angeles criminal defense, when it comes to sentencing and penalties, the prosecutors and judges are looking out for themselves, and when I say that you have to really think about it common-sense and logically.
They're looking at, if I sentence the person to this and I give the person a break for example which is what the defense is usually trying to argue, will it come back to haunt me. In other words, let's say somebody gets a DUI and maybe it's on the border line of whether a person does jail or not and the prosecutor or judge says we're going to go ahead and give him a break. We won't give him any jail time. We'll give him a warning.
We'll let him do some community service, and then fast-forward ahead a year, two years, three years, that same person gets in a car, drinks and drives, runs somebody over and kills them. Now the colleagues of that prosecutor and that judge are going to look at them and say you gave this guy nothing.
You didn't even give him any jail time. There were warning signs here. This person is dangerous and you didn't do anything and now look, they've killed somebody. So, that's what they're looking out for. That's what you have to understand.
Negotiation with Prosecutor
So, when we sit down and we talk about a case, when we argue a sentencing to a judge, we need to argue from this frame of reference. When I sit down and negotiate cases, that's the frame of reference I'm negotiating from.
In other words, because they're worried you're going to do something else bad, I'm going to show them all the good stuff you're doing in conjunction with what happened in this one single incident — this aberration — of course, if I have this argument, and be able to say, this person has a great job.
This person is a father, a mother. This person has a bunch of character letters that are saying wonderful things about them. Maybe this person was in a difficult point in their life and it's not going to happen again.
You won't have to worry about this particular person because they're not going to be back in front of you. This is the type of argument that is going to make a difference in a sentencing case — to be able to convince the judge or the prosecutor or both to give the person a break.
Give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them a chance to show that they can be a productive member of society and they're not going to do this again.
So, you really have to look at where the defendant is. You have to look at the impact to the victim of the crime and you have to argue to a frame of reference that a person is worried that if they give the person a break that it will come back to haunt them.
If you keep these things in mind in a criminal sentencing, now you're going to be in the best position to get a resolution that is fair and a resolution that a particular defendant can survive from. In other words, the defendant can be able to do the punishment, can be able be sentenced but still hold all the important things that they have — their job, their place in society, their ability to move around, their ability to work, their ability to stay free from custody. These are the things that defendants are worried about.
Sometimes when I have a defendant that's deathly fearful of going into custody, I make sure that I do everything I can to get a resolution that they don't have to go to jail. But sometimes there's a trade off for this. In other words, we want to say to the prosecutor, this person can't go to jail.
They're scared of death of jail. They're not going to commit any more offenses because they do not want to risk going to jail. Give them this. This is a worse punishment. This will teach them more of a lessen tan putting them in jail, especially the LA County jail system, which is overcrowded, has so many inmates in it and a lot of times people are doing a much smaller percentage of time.
Type of Crime Determines Percentage of Jail Time
That's another thing that you have to look at. If you get jail or prison time, what percentage of that time are you going to do? That's going to be driven and dictated by a few different factors. Number one what type of crime did you commit?
Did you commit a half-time crime where you probably end up doing somewhere between 10% and 25% in the county jail if you end up getting probation? Did you commit a serious or violent felony where you're going to be ordered to serve 80% or 85% of the time in prison?
You also want to look at Proposition 57 which is now allowing people to serve a fraction of the time even if they go to prison on the time. So the sentencing, the percentages of time have gotten very complicated and they've changed multiple times just over the course of the last six months as I put this post in 2020.
So, these are things you have to look at, you have to consider, discuss with your attorney and make a good decision on exactly how you're going to proceed with the case, what type of factors your attorney is going to argue related to your sentencing and your punishment in your criminal case in Los Angeles.