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Understand what factors might impact a criminal sentence

One of the things that people who are going through the criminal justice system think about often is what sentence they will face if they are convicted. The sentences are usually determined by looking into a host of factors. Understanding these might help you to plan your defense.

One of the primary factors that determines the sentence a judge hands down is the sentencing guidelines for the charge. For example, there are specific guidelines to sentence a person who is convicted of assault and battery. Those are different from the guidelines for a conviction on identity theft.

In some cases, the judge has to abide by the mandatory minimum sentence that is set for a criminal conviction. If the sentence is a mandatory minimum, the judge can't even entertain an alternative sentence, so you should find out if your charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence.

Your criminal history is considered in these cases. Some charges carry harsher sentences with each subsequent conviction. This means that if you are convicted of assault and battery more than once, your second conviction might have a harsher sentence than the first and a third might be harsher than the second.

Some charges have mitigating or aggravating circumstances. These might carry a harsher penalty. For example, you would likely face a harsher sentence for a crime against a child or a police officer than you would if you committed the crime against another civilian adult.

Once you understand the factors that might impact your sentence, you can determine how to present your defense. If you think a conviction is imminent, your defense can focus on minimizing penalties instead of being found not guilty.

Source: FindLaw, "Factors Considered in Determining Sentences," accessed June 07, 2017

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