This is why it is so important to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you realize you are a suspect, or you have already been charged, with a criminal offense.
If you are actually guilty of that offense, and you are contemplating a guilty plea agreement or it appears that you will likely be convicted at trial, it becomes even more important to know the potential penalties you face.
It is also important to understand how and when a judge might deviate from the standard penalties. With that in mind, an Omaha drug defense lawyer explains mitigating and aggravating circumstances and how either could impact your sentence if convicted.
Paths to Sentencing
There is more than one path your case might take that eventually leads to sentencing. The first is to enter into a guilty plea agreement with the State of Nebraska. If it becomes clear, after consulting with your attorney, that the State’s evidence is overwhelming and you are, indeed, guilty, you may decide that having your attorney negotiate a plea agreement on your behalf is the best option. Typically, a plea agreement will include the terms of your sentence; however, it is also possible to leave the terms of your sentence that relate to incarceration “open” or to agree only on a possible range for your sentence instead of a specific sentence.
The other way you will end up at a sentencing hearing is if you take your case to trial and you lose. Whether your case is decided by a judge or a jury, if you are convicted, the end result is the same. The next, and final, phase in your case is your sentencing hearing.
What Is a Sentencing Hearing?
When it comes to actually sentencing a defendant, there can big a considerable amount of difference in procedure from one jurisdiction to another – even from one court to another. As a general rule, however, if you are convicted of a relatively minor crime the court will go ahead and sentence you on the spot. For more serious crimes, however, you will likely be told to return (or brought back if you are in custody) for a sentencing hearing. Often, the court will order a pre-sentence investigation be conducted in the meantime. This is usually done through the local probation office. The pre-sentence investigation will delve into your background and look for your motive for committing the instant offense. All of the information gathered during the investigation may be used to show the court any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that should be considered when deciding your sentence.
Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances
The terms “aggravating circumstances” and “mitigating circumstances” are important to understand because there is a good chance they will be part of your sentencing decisions. In short, an aggravating circumstance is something unusually bad about the crime or something significantly negative in your background that would justify a harsher than normal sentence. Conversely, a mitigating factor is something that makes the crime less serious or something unusually positive in your background that would justify a more lenient sentence. Sometimes the factors a judge may consider as either aggravating or mitigating circumstances are determined by statute. When there is no statute to provide guidance, a judge may consider a number of different aggravating and/or mitigating factors. Common examples of aggravating factors include:
- Presence of a weapon during the commission of the crime
- Injury to a victim
- Previous conviction(s)
- On probation or parole, or out on bond at the time of the crime
Common examples of mitigating circumstances include:
- Lack of previous convictions
- No victim
- Cooperation with the authorities
- Taking responsibility (accepting a guilty plea) early on
Your Omaha Drug Defense Lawyer Can Help
Because the presence of mitigating or aggravating circumstances can impact the sentence you are likely to receive, it is always best to discuss likely factors ahead of time with your Omaha drug defense lawyer. By doing so you can sometimes explain, or at least provide context, to a judge for something that appears to be an aggravating circumstance.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense relating to drugs in the State of Nebraska it is certainly in your best interest to consult with an experienced Omaha drug defense lawyer right away to discuss what defenses might be available to you. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.