No one wants to face an investigation of any type by a law enforcement agency. Investigations can easily turn into criminal prosecutions for millions of people. Civil investigations by agencies like the SEC, FTC, FDA, and others can lead to criminal charges. Driving offenses can lead to a judicial sentence. Seemingly minor indiscretions can lead to felony charges and multiple years in prison.
For those reasons (and many more), if you’ve learned that you’re on the radar of law enforcement, it’s crucial to learn more about the sentencing process.
When authorities charge a person with a crime, hiring a criminal defense attorney may be the next step. The attorney likely will strive to answer a series of questions, including:
What are the facts of the case?
What evidence exists?
How strong is the evidence?
What does the statute require the prosecutor to prove?
What types of decisions have judges made in similar cases?
Getting answers to those types of questions requires analytical thinking. The defense attorneys will review the record, gather information, and study case law. They may not spend much time helping a defendant understand the process. Further, they may not want their clients to interfere with the judicial process in any way. Instead, they will pursue “discovery,” a process to learn more about the evidence prosecutors have. Then they will craft strategies to spin that evidence in ways that—from their perspective—lessen the likelihood of a conviction.
Unfortunately, when prosecutors bring charges, they threaten a person’s liberty. Defendants endure immediate and pressing problems. Their loved ones suffer, too. They may lose sleep, become less productive, and struggle from debilitating anxiety. There’s only one cure: Take action.
Preparing for a sentencing hearing makes a person feel as if he’s doing something. Hopefully, the defense attorney will prevail. If he prevails, there will not be a sentencing hearing. Prosecutors will dismiss the charges or there will be a verdict of acquittal. Unfortunately, in this era of mass incarceration, more often than not, when prosecutors bring charges, sentencing hearings follow.
If nothing else, this course provides insurance. Let’s hope that you never face a sentencing hearing and you never need it. But if you advance through this course, the mere exercise of learning will give you a sense of self-efficacy. We hope the knowledge you gain will restore confidence. Use the information to prepare in the event that your attorney doesn’t succeed in dismissing the charges. Don’t face a sentencing hearing like a deer in the headlights, unprepared for impact. Instead, do everything within your power to influence leniency at sentencing. These are the first steps you can take to begin your climb to a better life.