If you are currently a defendant in a criminal prosecution for an assault offense, the number one goal of your criminal defense attorney will be to avoid a conviction. Sometimes, however, a conviction simply cannot be avoided. When that is the case, a good attorney will shift the focus to sentencing. At that point, the primary goal becomes negotiating a favorable guilty plea agreement or arguing for a lenient sentence after a guilty verdict at trial. So you have some idea what to expect if you find yourself facing a sentencing, an Omaha assault lawyer explains sentencing.
State vs. Federal Sentences
Assault is almost certainly a state level offense; however, a thorough understanding of how sentencing works in the United States should include at least a brief explanation of how sentencing works in federal court as well as state court. In the United States, we operate a federalist form of government which means we have a strong central government (the federal government) and many smaller semi-autonomous governments (state governments). Consequently, we also have two different judicial systems, the federal and state court systems. This means that an individual could be prosecuted in federal court, in a state court, or in both for some types of crimes.
If you are ever charged and convicted in federal court, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines will be used to determine your sentence. In addition, you will likely have to complete significantly more of your sentence in a federal prison before you are eligible for parole because at the federal level you get 54 days of “good time” credit for every year served. In other words, you must complete 85 percent of your sentence, as a general rule, before potentially being eligible for parole after a conviction in federal court.
Trial vs. Plea Agreement
The terms of your sentence will depend, to some extent, on how you ended up being convicted. If your criminal defense attorney negotiated a plea agreement with the State of Nebraska for you, the terms of the plea agreement will usually dictate the terms of your sentence. Most plea agreements specify what the defendant’s sentence will be if he/she pleads guilty to the offense(s) included in the agreement. In some cases, a plea agreement will contain “open” sentencing terms. In that case, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will make an argument to the court with regard to that term and the judge will decide. If you were convicted at trial, the judge will usually set a separate sentencing hearing to decide your fate. Sometimes, however, if the charges are for something minor, the judge may move directly to sentencing after the trial. If a sentencing hearing is set though, you will likely be required to report to an official to put together a pre-sentence report. This report helps the judge decide your sentence and may include things such as your previous criminal history (if any), your education level, employment record, family situation, and any known mental health or addiction issues. At the sentencing hearing, both the prosecuting attorney and your defense attorney will be allowed to make an argument in favor of a harsher or more lenient sentence, respectively.
One last factor that can have a significant impact on your sentence is mandatory sentencing. If the offense has a mandatory minimum sentence it means that the judge must sentence you to at least that much time in prison. When an offense has a mandatory minimum it also means that the judge cannot suspend the sentence and order you to serve any of the time on probation instead of in jail or prison. Finally, it means that you must serve at least that much time before being eligible for parole. For example, if the crime carries a sentence of 5-20 with a mandatory minimum of five years it means you could get anywhere from five to 20 years but the first five years cannot be suspended nor can you be eligible for parole prior to completing that much time in prison.
Contact an Omaha Assault Lawyer at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with assault in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced Omaha assault lawyer as soon as possible. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.