How to receive leniency in sentencing

Posted on February 26th, 2015

Typically, people picture a criminal defense attorney as one who fights to prove your innocence. Although true, this is only half the job. Sometimes people are found guilty and sometimes people are guilty. If you are in this situation, you want your attorney to do everything possible to help you get a fair and lenient sentence. 

In Pennsylvania, the judge decides sentencing. You need a lawyer who understands your sentencing judge.

Some factors which judges find very persuasive at sentencing are:

1. Treatment for underlying issues

Judges try to understand why the crime happened and like to see that your risk of re-offending is low. In order to assure a judge that incarceration is inappropriate and that you deserve leniency, proof of treatment is important. Treatment can include therapy, inpatient drug or alcohol treatment, outpatient treatment, and less formal forms of intervention such as counseling with a pastor or attending alcoholic/narcotics anonymous. Any treatment is helpful, and the more treatment the better. Proof of treatment is essential to show the court that you are committed to reentering society.

2. Humanizing your story

When people are charged with a crime, they are portrayed as a criminal. The prosecutor, the judge, and other parties often look at them as simply a bad, greedy, or evil person. A good lawyer will fight hard to change that story. Your lawyer must humanize you to the judge, the prosecutor, and the jury. If the judge sees you not as a bad person, but rather as a flawed human who can be redeemed, then the judge will have sympathy, compassion, and give an appropriate sentence.

3. A personal life story is important

You need a lawyer who will take the time to listen and learn about you as a person; one who is eloquent enough to explain your story to the judge. Painting the entire picture of your life is essential to receiving a fair and just sentence.

These are just some of the important factors to achieve a lenient sentence. In Pennsylvania, judges are encouraged to reference the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines are simply guidelines, and do not require a specific outcome. You need a lawyer who understands these guidelines and can explain to the judge why your sentence should be below the guidelines. You need a lawyer who will fight for every aspect of your case. Waiting to prepare for sentencing only after you have been found guilty and about to be sentenced is the wrong approach.