As we mentioned in the pre-trial conference section, sentencing is a decision made by the judge, either following a guilty or no contest plea, or a guilty verdict at the end of a jury trial. The charges filed against a defendant can give a range for sentencing, but the judge makes the final decision. So, how does a judge decide the sentence? The circumstances surrounding the crime and arrest, or a defendant’s history often affect a judge’s decision. A repeat offender found guilty of a violent crime is more likely to receive a heavier sentence than a first time offender. Because of this, defense attorneys try to show “mitigating circumstances” played a role in their client’s arrest. For example, they might argue that their client was merely an accessory to a crime, or committed it in a carefully non-violent manner while under great personal stress. Also, “aggravating” circumstances, which make the crime seem worse, can lead a judge to add to your sentence. In this regard, violent crimes proven to be gang related or committed with a deadly weapon will hold stricter mandatory sentences automatically.
A defendant’s sentencing can be one of the most important stages of a case, because of this it’s extremely important to have an experienced California Criminal Lawyer handling your sentencing.