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Find Sentencing Lawyer

Find Sentencing Lawyer


Once an individual has been declared guilty, there is an additional phase that decides the consequences of that crime. The process of sentencing determines what penalties are assessed for a given crime.

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Feldman Royle Attorneys At Law, PLLC

9 years in practice
Crimes and Aggravation, Criminal Appeals, Criminal Defense, Criminal Trials and Juries, Defendant Rights
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The Piatchek Law Firm, LLC

20 years in practice
Adoption, Advance Healthcare Directives, Alimony, At-Fault Divorce, Auto Accidents
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Boerst Law Office, Inc.

15 years in practice
Animal Bites, Auto Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Birth Injury, Brain Injury
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Scott R. Scherr, P.A., Attorney at Law

32 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Crimes and Aggravation, Criminal Appeals, Criminal Defense, Criminal Trials and Juries
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Law Offices of Greg Lavender, PLLC

11 years in practice
Animal Bites, Auto Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Brain Injury, Crimes and Aggravation
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The Piatchek Law Firm, LLC

20 years in practice
Adoption, Advance Healthcare Directives, Alimony, At-Fault Divorce, Auto Accidents
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Assigning Penalties for Crimes

Sentences are not just arbitrarily handed down at will from judges. Instead, judges follow the sentencing guidelines set out by the federal U.S. Sentencing Commission and existing precedent. The judge will assign a sentence that is determinate or indeterminate and is impacted by mandatory minimum sentencing as well as any mitigating or enhancing factors that impact the sentence.

Determinate Sentencing

Determinate sentences hand down a set penalty to a defendant. Examples of determinate sentences are “5 years in jail.” This does not preclude the defendant from reducing their sentence through behavioral credits during their time in prison.

Indeterminate Sentencing

Indeterminate sentencing sets a minimum period for which the defendant must serve before the defendant can qualify for parole. An example of an indeterminate sentence is “25 to life.” As with determinate sentences, an individual given an indeterminate sentence can qualify for behavioral credits to reduce their time served.

Minimum Sentencing

Certain crimes have a mandatory minimum sentence associated with them. Examples of mandatory minimum related crimes include drug crimes, identity theft, sexual abuse, and child pornography. These minimum sentences can range from as little as 2 years to as many as 15 years.

Adjusting Factors in a Sentence

There are a number of factors that can both increase or decrease the sentence an individual receives. One example of a factor that affects sentencing is criminal history. If an individual has no criminal record, then the sentence may be reduced while an individual with a criminal record may face additional penalties during sentencing. Similarly, if the crime was committed with a weapon or violently, that may enhance the penalties assessed to the defendant.

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Sentencing Frequently Asked Questions

1. What factors are considered when determining the sentence for a convicted individual?

In general, sentences are handed down based on two factors: the sentencing guidelines, and existing precedent. The guidelines are created and updated by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and measure a variety of factors to create recommended sentencing brackets that judges may then consider. The second factor that impacts the sentence a defendant receives is the precedent established by previous sentencing by other relevant courts. If a defendant has similar circumstances to another case in the same court, then the defendant’s sentence will be impacted by this similar case.

2. What is the difference between determinate and indeterminate sentencing?

Determinate sentencing gives the defendant a set amount of time in prison. For example, a determinate sentence would be 5 years of jail time. By contrast indeterminate sentencing hands down a range of time such as “25 to life.” Defendants sentenced to an indeterminate period must serve the minimum period of time but after that period a parole board will evaluate if the defendant should be released. Both determinate and indeterminate sentences can be reduced by mitigating factors such as good behavior or work release.

3. Can the judge consider mitigating factors during the sentencing process?

The sentencing guidelines are only the start of a judge’s ability to determine what penalties should apply to a defendant. Within the sentencing guidelines are a number of mitigating factors that can reduce the recommended sentence a defendant receives such as a lack of a criminal record.

4. Are there any mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes?

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, there are a few categories of crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. These categories include drug offenses, identity theft offenses, and sex abuse offenses. 

5. What options do individuals have for appealing their sentence?

If a defendant feels that their sentence was unfairly handed down, then they may appeal their sentence. In order to qualify for an appeal, it must be demonstrated that in some way that the judge misapplied or ignored the sentencing guidelines.

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