Sentencing Reduction Lawyers

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 What are Sentence Reductions?

After a defendant is convicted of a crime, a sentencing hearing follows. The judge will examine the legal sentencing guidelines that apply to the crime.

Before this hearing, a defendant may file a mitigation statement that outlines their plea for a shorter sentence. This statement should be clear regarding the individuals and business interests that will suffer due to the absence of the defendant while their sentence is being served.

At the sentencing hearing, the prosecution will have a chance to present their case for a longer sentence. In addition, the defense will be able to argue for a shorter sentence.

A defendant who is remorseful and who has an increased change of rehabilitation may be assigned a shorter sentence in certain cases.

Can I Get My Time Reduced?

When an individual, called the defendant, is convicted of a crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony, they may be facing time in jail or prison. During this stressful time, the defendant may be wondering how they can keep their time spent incarcerated as short as possible.

Criminal sentences are legal punishments that are imposed upon defendants who have been convicted of crimes. Criminal sentencing will vary by state and jurisdiction.

Each state and jurisdiction can make their own laws unless they are prohibited by federal law. There are common elements in sentencing throughout the United States, including the penalty that follows a criminal conviction.

Penalties for a criminal conviction may include:

  • Incarceration;
  • Fines;
  • Probation or parole; or
  • Community service.

In many cases, a conviction and a criminal sentence are final decisions. The defendant may be able to request a modification of their sentence but they must do so according to the rules of the court.

In general, there is a 14 day time limit for a defendant to request any clerical corrections to their criminal sentence. An example of a clerical correction would be if the defendant’s sentence called for a probation period of 12 months but the clerk mistakenly entered the probation as 24 months.

There may also be other limited circumstances where a defendant’s sentence may need correcting or changing which may include:

  • A judicial error;
  • A mistake made by the court, for example, excluding evidence that should have been allowed in; or
  • A change in the law that retroactively alters previous sentences.

A retroactive law is a law that is passed that applies both to future cases as well as previous instances of the same crime or sentence. If a defendant is proactive during the legal process, there might be ways they can reduce their sentence and the time they are required to spend away from their family and friends.

How Can I Get My Sentence Reduced?

Criminal sentences are assigned based on a complex combination of numerous factors, including:

  • The nature of the crime;
  • The defendant’s existing criminal record; and
  • The legal sentencing guidelines that apply.

Lower level crimes, including misdemeanors, are assigned shorter sentences than felony offenses. If a defendant believes that the sentence they received is too severe, it may be possible to appeal the sentence and request a reduction.

The laws for appealing a sentence and reducing a request may vary widely by state. In every state, however, an appeal must be filed within a specific period of time.

In many states, an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the defendant’s original sentence. The filing date indicates that the appeal must be provided to the clerk of the court by that date.

When Should I Ask for a Sentence Reduction?

Requesting a sentence reduction should be done during the sentencing phase of the criminal process. The criminal justice system has two phases, the guilt phase, or the trial portion, and the sentencing phase, or sentencing portion.

If a defendant is convicted of a crime during the guilt phase, they will proceed to the sentencing phase. During the sentencing phase, the defendant has the opportunity to advocate for a more lenient sentence as well as to initiate the sentence reduction process.

Depending upon the rules of the jurisdiction, a defendant may make their motion in writing or orally before the court. In order to request a more lenient sentence, typically, the defendant’s attorney can file a motion for modification of sentence.

The exact title of the motion may vary by jurisdiction. This motion should provide information regarding why the defendant’s request should be granted.

This may include new information that is available which was not available at trial. In many cases, this type of motion will include a request to shorten the defendant’s sentence.

After the motion for sentence modification is filed, the court will set a hearing to allow the defendant to argue the merits of their request. In more serious cases that may carry longer sentences, the court will typically require the prosecution to approve the reduced sentence before it will be granted.

It is imperative that this motion is filed before the defendant’s sentence is finalized, as a retroactive attempt at sentence reduction is rarely allowed. In most cases, however, courts are required to adhere to applicable sentencing guidelines.

A court will either grant or deny the defendant’s request for a sentence modification.

Can I Appeal a Sentence Reduction Denial?

In many states, it may be difficult or even impossible for a defendant to receive a sentence modification once they have reached the correction facility. It is typically in the best interests of the defendant for their attorney to file this type of appeal as soon as possible after the sentencing hearing.

Another option that may be available is to request a rehabilitation program instead of serving a prison sentence. This is an option that may be available to a first time offender.

The court may also specify instructions for the defendant’s early release if specific rehabilitation efforts are completed. It is important that these instructions be recorded in the sentencing minutes so they can be referred to later if the corrections department is not made aware of them.

What if the Law or Facts of My Case Change Afterwards?

Laws and criminal sentencing guidelines can change and evolve. In some cases, it may be possible to change an inmate’s circumstances based on changes in the law.

For example, many states are currently reviewing and altering both charges and sentences for the possession of small amounts of certain types of narcotics. If the current standards are vastly different from the sentence a defendant previously received, they may be able to petition the court to have their sentence changed to reflect current laws and guidelines.

It is also possible that new evidence or information may be discovered after a verdict is rendered and a sentence is handed down that may exonerate a defendant or may substantially change how the crime should have originally been charged. These situations are rare but may allow a defendant to request a sentence modification outside of the punishment phase.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been charged with or convicted of a crime, it is essential to have the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer. Every aspect of a criminal trial and the sentencing procedures should involve your lawyer.

If you are unhappy with the representation you received during your trial, it may be possible for you to hire a different attorney for representation during the sentencing process.

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