Although most defendants who enter the criminal justice system start out being concerned about beating a state’s claims against them, there is another concern which is just as important: the sentence. The defendant’s sentence determines how many years of his or her life will be spent with a part of their liberty restrained by the state or federal government. A favorable sentence can allow a defendant to serve his or her debt to society and then to re-enter it as a productive and law-abiding citizen. A more severe sentence can have a defendant spend most of his or her living years – if not their entire life – behind bars.
The fact that a defendant has been convicted does not automatically define the sentence he or she will receive. Both state and federal courts take into account a number of factors, such as criminal history, characteristics of the crime and personal characteristics/history of the defendant, to arrive at an appropriate sentence. An experienced attorney can help shape a court’s view of those sentencing factors in a light most favorable to minimizing the deprivation of freedom suffered by his client. That attorney can also identify and exploit procedural issues to assure minimum sentencing. In certain circumstances, attorneys can also seek modification or reduction of a sentence based on changed circumstances or factors which should have been, but were not, considered at the original sentencing.