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Formulating An Effective Sentencing Plan

Many defendants who are accused of crimes choose to accept a plea agreement to resolve their case rather than go to trial. When this happens, there is oftentimes very little time to prepare. Therefore, it is important to always be prepared for this possibility unless a defendant knows that there is no way he or she would ever accept a plea agreement.

To prepare for a sentencing hearing, the defendant should first consider the causes of the behavior that resulted in him or her being charged with a crime. Then, the defendant should consider a rehabilitation or prevention plan so that the same behavior does not continue. Finally, the defendant should always reach out to family, friends, and employers for character letters long before the sentencing hearing to help the prosecutor and judge understand what kind of person they are, and why they are likely to be successful with their rehabilitation plan.

For many defendants, drugs, behavioral health issues, or lack of anger management are among the reasons why they become charged with crimes. Because there are many resources in these areas, the defendant should talk to his or her attorney early in the case to discuss what behaviors he or she believes contributed to him or her being charged with a crime, and identify the resource or resources that best fit his or her rehabilitative needs.

When asking positive character references to draft character letters, defendants should explain the importance of the letter: to help the prosecutor and judge understand what kind of person they are because the Criminal Complaint, which summarizes the events that resulted in criminal charges, will otherwise paint a negative picture of the defendant’s character in the judge or prosecutor’s mind. Moreover, the character letters should highlight specific examples, if possible, of how the defendant has done positive things with his or her life that are related to his or her ability to succeed in the future and avoid further criminal charges. For example, a defendant’s educational achievements, examples of overcoming adversity, and excellent work ethic are all positive character attributes that help judges and prosecutors better understand why the defendant is likely to succeed and learn from what happened.

Because every case is unique, and a good criminal defense attorney will oftentimes know how specifics about each judge and prosecutor, the defendant should discuss with a defense attorney which resources will be the best fit for them, and what types of positive attributes about the defendant character references should highlight in their character letters.