Criminal Defense Attorneys Obtaining Extraordinary Sentences for Clients

Persuading a judge to order a lenient sentence, such as one without jail or minimal probation, takes great skill, meticulous preparation, and compelling advocacy.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

A court can place sentence conditions on a person, but they must be reasonable at sentencing.

The placement of sentence conditions on a person must be reasonable and be no greater deprivation of liberty than necessary and reasonably related to punishment, rehabilitation, and deterrence of others. The case of US v Widmer (decided May 2015) involved a person convicted of receipt of child pornographic images. At sentencing, the court ordered that Widmer have no contact with minor children, including his daughter, without his probation officer’s permission. Widmer appealed. The appeals court decided that the district court’s concern was sufficient to overcome Widmer’s constitutional right to family association, and the condition was narrow enough to address the concerns. It is the job of a Michigan criminal attorney handling sentencing to ensure the conditions of a sentence are rationally connected to the offense and consider the defendant’s circumstances. In some cases, it is possible to negotiate directly with the judge or prosecutor for a lenient sentence.

Judicial Considerations at the Sentencing Hearing

When sentencing in Michigan, judges consider several factors generally aligned with principles of justice, fairness, and the specific guidelines set forth by Michigan law. Unfortunately, many criminal defense lawyers fail to fully understand and appreciate how judges decide a sentence and what mitigating arguments are most effective. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has an unparalleled track record for successfully arguing for lenient sentences in district and circuit courts throughout Michigan. Here are some of the key factors that judges in Michigan take into account:

  • Sentencing Guidelines: Michigan has sentencing guidelines that judges must consider. These guidelines provide a framework for determining the appropriate sentence based on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history.
  • Nature and Circumstances of the Offense: Judges evaluate the specifics of the crime, including its severity, whether it involved violence, the harm or potential harm to victims, and any other unique circumstances surrounding the offense.
  • Defendant’s Criminal History: The judge considers the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any. A history of prior offenses, especially similar types of offenses, can lead to a harsher sentence.
  • Impact on Victims: The judge may consider statements from victims or their families, which can provide insight into the physical, emotional, and financial impact of the crime.
  • Defendant’s Personal History and Characteristics: This includes the defendant’s age, mental health status, employment history, family responsibilities, and any struggles with substance abuse. Judges often consider whether the defendant is likely to re-offend and whether they show remorse for their actions.
  • Mitigating and Aggravating Factors: Judges look at factors that might mitigate (lessen) or aggravate (increase) the severity of the sentence. Mitigating factors might include the defendant’s lack of prior criminal history, efforts at rehabilitation, or circumstances that led to the crime. Aggravating factors could include the use of a weapon, the commission of the crime in a particularly heinous manner, or the targeting of vulnerable victims.
  • Plea Agreements: If the defendant has entered into a plea or sentencing agreement with the prosecutor, the judge will consider the terms of that agreement, although they are not bound to follow it.
  • Community Safety: Considerations about the community’s safety and the need to deter the defendant and others from committing similar offenses can influence sentencing decisions.
  • Restitution and Rehabilitation: Judges may consider the need for restitution to the victims and the potential for the defendant’s rehabilitation.
  • Legal Arguments and Recommendations: The judge will listen to the arguments and recommendations presented by the prosecution and defense attorneys.

Judges in Michigan have a degree of discretion within the bounds of the law, and many try to balance the need for punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, and restitution in their sentencing decisions. Regretfully, some Michigan judges focus on punishment over rehabilitation, and it takes a very influential, compelling defense attorney to persuade them to consider alternatives to a harsh sentence.

Attorney - Michigan - Awards

How Do Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Handle Sentencing

The criminal defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. formulate their sentencing allocation (also known as sentencing submissions or sentencing arguments) through a careful and strategic process that involves several key steps:

  • Understanding the Case and Legal Framework: They first thoroughly understand the facts of the case, the charges against their client, and the applicable legal framework, including statutory guidelines, case law, and any mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Assessing the Client’s Background and Circumstances: The lawyer will consider the client’s background, including personal history, mental health status, employment history, family circumstances, and any prior criminal record. This information can be used to argue for leniency or alternative sentencing options.
  • Identifying Mitigating Factors: They identify mitigating factors that might warrant a lesser sentence. This can include the client’s role in the offense, lack of prior criminal history, remorse and willingness to rehabilitate, and any hardships they have endured.
  • Considering Aggravating Factors: The lawyer also considers potential aggravating factors that the prosecution might raise and prepares to counter or mitigate their impact.
  • Preparing Sentencing Memorandums or Reports: They often prepare detailed sentencing memorandums or reports that include character references, psychological evaluations, and other relevant documentation to support their arguments for a lesser sentence.
  • Negotiating with Prosecutors: Before the sentencing hearing, defense lawyers may negotiate with prosecutors to reach a plea deal or agree on a recommended sentence.
  • Presenting Arguments in Court: During the sentencing hearing, the lawyer presents their arguments to the judge, focusing on why a lesser sentence is appropriate. They may call witnesses, present evidence, and make a compelling case for their client.
  • Post-Sentencing Advocacy: If the sentence is harsher than expected, the defense lawyer might consider options for appeal or applying for parole or probation conditions.

The ultimate goal of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is to achieve the most favorable outcome for our clients, considering all available legal strategies and mitigating factors. We will do whatever it takes to achieve the best possible outcome regardless of any challenges or difficulties.

Frequently Asked Sentencing Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in terms of sentencing? The key difference lies in the severity of the punishment. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes typically punishable by fines or jail time of one year or less. Felonies are more serious, potentially resulting in possible prison sentences and years of probation supervision. Felony convictions can also lead to the loss of certain civil rights, like the right to own firearms.

Who determines the kind of punishment a convicted defendant will receive? Judges determine a defendant’s sentence by considering a combination of legal guidelines, the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and various mitigating or aggravating factors. They follow sentencing guidelines that suggest a range of appropriate sentences for each type of crime, although these guidelines are generally advisory rather than mandatory, giving judges some discretion. Additionally, judges consider factors like the impact on victims, the defendant’s remorse, and their potential for rehabilitation. In some cases, mandatory minimum sentences prescribed by law may restrict a judge’s discretion. Plea bargains, where defendants plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence, also play a significant role in sentencing.

Where can someone learn about the possible punishments for various crimes? The penalties for crimes are typically prescribed in criminal statutes. These laws define the crime and specify punishments, such as fines or imprisonment terms. Local legal practice, customs, and plea bargaining can also influence the range of punishments. It is best to talk with your defense lawyer to fully understand the possible consequences if you are convicted.

Do people convicted of similar crimes receive similar punishments? Two people convicted of the same crime might receive different sentences due to several factors. Firstly, their individual criminal histories play a crucial role; a repeat offender is likely to receive a harsher punishment than a first-time offender. Secondly, the circumstances under which each crime was committed can influence sentencing; for instance, if one crime involved a greater degree of premeditation or violence, it might lead to a more severe sentence. Thirdly, judges consider mitigating factors such as the defendant’s remorse, willingness to cooperate with law enforcement or personal hardships. Additionally, sentence differences can also arise from plea bargains, where defendants negotiate for reduced sentences in exchange for a guilty plea.

What factors do judges consider when determining punishments? Top criminal defense attorneys handling sentencing know that judges consider the following factors:

  1. Nature and severity of the crime.
  2. Defendant’s criminal history.
  3. Impact on victims.
  4. Defendant’s age and personal circumstances.
  5. Defendant’s mental health and character.
  6. Presence of mitigating or aggravating factors.
  7. Community safety considerations.
  8. Potential for rehabilitation.
  9. Sentencing guidelines (state or federal).
  10. Plea agreements made.
  11. Statements made by the prosecution and defense.
  12. Legal precedents and statutory requirements.
  13. Probation or parole eligibility.
  14. Restitution to victims.

How are sentencing guidelines used in determining a sentence? Federal and state sentencing guidelines provide a framework for judges, suggesting a range of appropriate sentences based on the nature of the crime and the defendant’s history. However, these guidelines are advisory, not mandatory, giving judges some discretion.

Can a judge deviate from the sentencing guidelines? Judges can deviate or vary up or down from the advisory guidelines if they have a valid reason based on objective facts.

What are mandatory minimum sentences, and how do they affect sentencing? Mandatory minimum sentences require a minimum level of punishment for certain crimes, limiting a judge’s discretion. Crimes such as identity theft, criminal sexual conduct, child pornography, and severe drug trafficking crimes have mandatory minimum sentences.

What is the role of plea bargaining in sentencing? Prosecutors in Michigan can agree with the defense on a specific sentence. Although most judges will go along with a sentencing agreement, often called a Kilibrew Agreement, they are not required to agree. If the judge does not follow the sentence agreement between the parties, the defendant can withdraw their guilty plea and take the case to trial or re-negotiate a new plea.

What are the alternatives to prison sentences, such as probation or parole? Alternatives to prison include probation (allowing offenders to live in the community under supervision and certain conditions), house arrest, tether, community service, fines, costs, in-patient alcohol, drug, or mental health treatment, and parole (early release from prison under similar conditions).

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Michigan criminal attorneys handling sentencing who can help you get a fair sentence or work toward correcting a bad one.

It is possible to convince a judge to minimize sentence conditions for felony, misdemeanor, and violation of probation sentences. It is also possible to persuade a court not to place any probation conditions on someone. If a sentence has already been given and seems unfair or unduly harsh, it is possible to convince a judge to change their mind and resentence. You must have the best legal help available to accomplish any of these things. The lawyers at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are some of Michigan’s best criminal defense attorneys. Our attorneys are ready, willing, and more than able to ensure you receive the fairest sentence possible or convince a judge to resentence you to something more reasonable. The firm’s attorneys have a reputation as fighters for those who are unable to fight for themselves. They are the voice for the voiceless. If you need help, it is essential that you contact the attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation. Each Michigan criminal attorney handling sentencing with our firm takes great pride in helping people obtain the best result possible in court.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

Contact Us - Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys