When you’re facing jail or prison time for a criminal conviction, it’s important to know what you steps you can take to possible reduce your sentence. The prosecutor or court will not take steps to lessen your sentence, so it is important to take initiative to make sure you are taking the right precautions. 

When Should I Try to Reduce My Sentence? 

The time to file a motion to modify sentence is during the sentencing portion of the trial. Once the motion is filed, the judge will then conduct a hearing on the motion and determine the merits of it. If the potential sentence is of significant time, typically more than three years, then the prosecutor must agree to reviewing the motion.
It’s important to try to reduce your criminal sentence before the court enters their final judgment. Once the final judgment is entered, the presiding judge cannot make any changes to the sentence. In very rare cases the court may be able to retroactively reduce the sentence, but only if there is a change of circumstances and/or a law allows them to revisit the issue and change it.

What Can Increase My Chances to Reduce My Sentence?

At one point, you will need to ask your attorney to file a motion to modify your sentence. It is up to the court to accept the modification. There are certain things that might help the court accept your motion:

  • You assisted the prosecutor in another criminal case;
  • You are of advanced age;
  • Have a terminal illness;
  • The State’s sentencing guidelines have changed; or
  • New factors have changed the circumstances of the case.

What Are the Chances of My Motion Succeeding?

Ultimately, the factor involved for your motion succeed or not succeeding rest entirely on the judge’s decision. One of the most common reasons for a motion to succeed is when the defendant cooperates with another case to help the state convict another criminal. 

Also, if you’re of significant age or facing a terminal illness, many courts will reduce the length of sentence for a compassionate modification. Part of this consideration is also dependent on whether the defendant is considered a danger to the community in this state, so simply being older and ill will not be enough if the court still thinks the defendant is a threat.

What if My Sentence Was “Illegal”?

In rare cases, you might have been handed down an illegal sentence. This is when the sentence cannot apply to you, due to a wide range of reasons:

  • The sentence does not follow the current and active law;
  • The sentence is not clear;
  • The sentence ignores the defendant’s plea bargain; or
  • The court giving the sentence did not have the authority to hand it down.

It is not very common to have a sentence determined to be illegal and the sentence reconsidered. But, it is important to determine if you are facing an illegal sentence, and you can do that with the help your lawyer. 

Do I Need a Lawyer’s Help?

Most people don’t know that they have the opportunity to reduce their sentence. If you are willing to meet the requirements for reducing your sentence, like cooperating with the state on another case, then you should take the opportunity. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to spot your opportunities and help you present your motion in the most favorable light to the court and the prosecutor. Don’t miss your opportunity to re-gain some of your freedom.