Factors Judge Considers During Sentencing

Judges determine the punishments for a crime. (Capital punishment cases the jury will decide life in prison or death). The 8th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

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Once a person has been found guilty in the court of law or pleads guilty, sentencing will be the next step. A judge will need to review relevant information and consider many factors. The mandatory minimum along with social factors, severity of crime and victim statements all play a part in the sentencing.

Additionally, the crime must fit the punishment. A Judge will consider the punishment and then consider “aggravating” or “mitigating” circumstances. A few of these factors considered include:

  • First time or repeat offender
  • Main offender or accessory
  • If anyone was hurt or if crime was unlikely to hurt anyone
  • If crime was committed under stress
  • If offender was very cruel
  • If offender is remorseful

Provisions state that the court must give counsel an opportunity to speak on behalf of the defendant. Defendant will be allowed to prevent any information or make a statement on his own behalf. In many states, a victim or victims family may also be given the opportunity to address the court and recommend leniency or strictness.

If you need help and want to know more about the sentencing laws in Washington State, contact Charles A Johnston law.

Legal Terms 101: Crime Classification

Crimes will receive different classifications depending on how severe the are. These classifications are known as infractions for the mildest crimes and felonies for most serious. The classification of the crime has influence on sentencing and court proceedings. Here are some of the key differences.

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1. Infractions

  • An infraction (petty offense) is a violation in the municipal code, or ordinance. In most states, an infraction is not considered a criminal offense and is not punishable by law. There is no jail time associated with it.

Examples:

  • Jaywalking
  • Speeding ticket
  • Littering
  • Cell phone while driving
  • Not wearing seatbelt

Options:

  • Pay a fine
  • Provide explanation and pay the fine
  • Request informal hearing with no attorney (could cost you)
  • Request court hearing with attorney to dispute ticket

2. Misdemeanor 

  • Misdemeanors are criminal offenses less serious than a felony, more serious than infraction. They are punishable by a fine, jail time or both. There are different levels of misdemeanors as well (petty, ordinary, and high/gross)

Examples:

  • Petty theft
  • Public intoxication
  • Trespass
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Simple assault

Options:

  • Contact an attorney
  • Attend pretrial
  • Plead either guilty, not guilty or no contest
  • If given a fine, pay the fine.
  • Your may be able to enter a plea bargain or you may have to go to trial.slide-6

 3. Felonies

  • Felonies are the most serious offense in the United States. Many states will give harsher punishment to repeat offenders. If you are charged with a felony, you may face more than a year of jail time, fines or both.

Examples:

  • Treason
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorism
  • Burglary

Options:

  • Contact a criminal defense attorney
  • Possibility of a dismissal (due to unconstitutional search and seizure, evidence…)
  • You will be arrested and can meet with pretrial services to determine your bond.
  • Arraignment is your first appearance before a judge. You can plea guilty or not guilty.
  • Preliminary hearing will determine if substantive evidence exists to charge you.
  • If evidence exists, the grand jury will hear your case.
  • Eventually a jury will hear your case.
  • If found guilty you may be sent to prison or be charged with fines. If eligable, you may receive probation.
  • If you are acquitted, you will be released and the charge will be expunged in 60 days.

 

Sources:

FindLaw

Avvo.com

Attorneys.com

 

Legal Terms 101: What is the Fourth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment is one of the parts of the Constitution that is a legal safeguard. Specifically the Fourth Amendment protects individuals from “search and seizure.”  These protections pertain to:

  • Searches of items or places in which you have a legitimate expectation of privacy. This can include clothing, on your own body, luggage, your car, your home, your place of work, hotel room etc.
  • Unlawfully seized items cannot be used as evidence in criminal cases.

What circumstances does the Fourth Amendment apply to?

  • You are stopped for police questioning while walking down the street.
  • You are pulled over for a minor traffic violation and the officer searches the vehicle’s trunk.
  • You are under arrest.
  • You are arrested at your place of residence.
  • Police enter your place of business to search for evidence.

When can my property be searched or seized lawfully?

  • If the officer has a valid search warrant.
  • If the officer has a valid arrest warrant.
  • There is belief and probable cause that you have committed a crime.

What do I do if my rights were violated?                     

If you believe an unlawful search and/or seizure has been committed, contact Charles A. Johnston Law. We will ensure that any of the evidence obtained during this search will be discarded from potential evidence. This could include a search of your home or workplace without a warrant.

Search-warrantWhen can a search be lawful without a warrant?

There are a few specific instances in which a warrant is not needed.

  • You give an officer consent to the search.
  • There is probable cause to search.
  • If any items are in plain view.
  • During a lawful custodial arrest a full search can be completed.

 

This is an overview of the Fourth Amendment, your rights and specifics of the law. For legal advice please contact our team at 253-473-3090.

 

Source: Cornell University Law School