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Sentencing

Once an accused has been convicted by a jury or because he or she pled guilty pursuant to a plea bargain, the work that is preparing for sentencing begins. Unfortunately, rather than this being the ending of the casework, it is usually just the tip of the iceberg, in regards to the work in store for the lawyer. However, it is here that a noticeable and life-enhancing difference can be made regarding punishment, incarceration, etc. In fact, pleas are more-often-than-not negotiated to restrict the maximum punishment, as lawyers know full well that much less punishment can be possible with some creative and diligent sentencing preparation.

When preparing for such an event, one of the first steps that should be taken is the lobbying of the probation department with information that will provide reason and recommendation for a mitigated sentence. The probation department might not provide much sympathy for your appeal, but if you can reach them with the right and most mitigating information, they can make a world of difference to your case. The softer report they write concerning your case and your character, the less severe of a problem you will have in convincing a judge of your more "positive" position at the sentencing hearing.

Simultaneously, your lawyer should also be developing information comparatively showing the court that your conduct was not nearly as negative as it initially seemed, and that there are things about you and your past that certainly do justify a lesser and lighter sentence. Any good lawyer should become intimately familiar with your life. He or she should want to know all about your childhood, your teenage/adult years, and how they relate to your education, employment, military experience and your personal relationships with family and friends. For instance, if you had any sort of criminal record as a juvenile or as an adult, your lawyer should want understand every detail concerning those cases, including whether you were offered any rehabilitation on probation or parole.

If you have any history of alcohol or drug abuse, your attorney should definitely show the urge to explore how your addiction began, how severe it eventually became and whether or not you ever received any formal/professional treatment for it.

If you have a prior criminal record and you have been through the sentencing process before in any prior cases, your lawyer should also want to know whether or not you have ever had any formal psychological evaluations done in preparation for sentencing (in any earlier cases). If you have never had a formal psychological evaluation done, your lawyer should want to explore the sentencing strategy of retaining professional psychologists to perform a comprehensive psychiatric/psychological evaluation on you.

Your lawyer should explain that a good psychological evaluation will offer the judge important information about your personal history, information that may include factors which would make it understandable as to why you committed such a criminal act. If you have had a substance abuse problem or suffer from any sort of debilitating mental illness, a psychological evaluation should help credibly explain how you are really a good person unfortunately burdened by a difficult problem. People frequently crumble under the stress of life and a psychological evaluation can help make that more understandable to those who don’t know you and your life personally (i.e. the judge, the jury and prosecutors). Even if you suffer from a substance abuse problem, a good psychological evaluation will set out a plan of treatment and rehabilitation that should make the difference in persuading the judge to give you a chance at probation and treatment rather than custody or incarceration.