Whether you have already been convicted of a criminal offense, or your case remains pending, the thought of your potential sentence if convicted is likely not far from your mind. If you are new to the criminal justice system, you are likely even more worried about the sentence a judge might hand down if you are convicted. Will the judge be lenient or could you receive the maximum sentence? What factors will the judge take into account when sentencing you? Often, knowing what to expect as far as the procedure a judge will follow when determining your sentence can alleviate some of your concerns. Toward that end, the Omaha criminal defense attorneys at Petersen Law Office explain how a judge decides your sentence.
Did You Enter Into a Plea Agreement?
How you end up convicted of a criminal offense will often heavily influence the sentence you receive. 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. An “open” sentencing term within a plea agreement can also include minimum and maximum terms. For example, your plea agreement might include language such as “not less than 30 days nor more than 180 days in jail.” In that case, both sides make an argument and the judge will sentence you to a term of incarceration that falls somewhere between 30 and 180 days. Finally, keep in mind that a plea agreement must always be accepted by the judge. Until the judge accepts the plea agreement, the terms of that agreement are not yet binding.
Were You Convicted at Trial?
The other way to end of convicted of a criminal offense is by a guilty verdict following a trial by jury or judge. If you are convicted at trial, the judge will usually set a separate sentencing hearing to decide your fate. Sometimes, if the charges are for something minor, the judge may move directly to sentencing after the trial. If a hearing is set, however, 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.
Ultimately, the judge will fashion your sentence using the sentencing guidelines found in the Nebraska Revised Statute with regard to any jail or prison time. Both the prosecuting attorney and your criminal defense attorney may present witnesses and argument to try and convince the judge that there are mitigators (factors that make you less culpable) or aggravators (factors that make you more culpable) that should be considered when deciding your sentence. Mitigating factors might be things such as no previous criminal history, a lengthy job history, and/or considerable family or community support. Aggravating factors are things such as a lengthy criminal history, injury to a victim during the commission of the crime, and/or refusal to accept responsibility or show remorse for your actions. Along with deciding if you will spend any time in jail/prison, the judge also has the authority to include additional sentencing terms such as a period of probation, community work service, or completion of substance abuse counseling along with ordering you to pay court costs and fines. The best way to influence your sentence is a positive way is to have an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney on your side.
Contact the Omaha Criminal Defense Attorneys at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away to discuss possible defenses. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.