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Saturday, April 12, 2014

What should I do before my Sentencing Hearing?

So I am going to be sentenced...what should I do?

Often, after a plea, defense (and prosecution) will "reserve allocution" at sentencing. That means that each reserves the right to argue about what sentence you get. The basis for sentencing is the "guideline" -- and there are two types, state sentencing guidelines and federal sentencing guidelines. Generally, you can find these online.

What can you do?
Learn your guidelines! Learn the range of "punishment" that can be given for the crime, determine if any is mandatory, and if any prior convictions "enhance" the penalty. Sentencing is based on the number of "points" you have on your record (a lot like driving points from DMV) and the enhancements for the serious nature of the crime (for example, a crime involving firearms). Be sure to read your plea agreement, if you have one. Often enhancement papers are waived, and allocution is capped at a certain part of the sentencing range (say, the lower quartile) -- be sure to ask for this in your plea agreements if you can.

Secondly, the key to convincing the court to work with you (defense) at sentencing is rehabilitation. That's a fancy word for showing that between the time you committed the crime and the time of sentencing, you have not only followed all the orders of the court, but also engaged in two key areas: (a) bettering yourself (such as anger management, alcohol awareness, victim impact classes, domestic violence classes, etc.), and (b) community service (volunteer work at shelters, and other locations that are relevant to your case). The more "good works" you can show at sentencing, the stronger your attorney can argue you should be given the best possible sentence -- even possibly going outside of you favor, of course!

Finally, a document your attorney will receive before sentencing is very important. It's called the "pre-sentencing report" and is usually written by Court Services. In DC and the Federal Circuits, its called "CSOSA" which is short for Court Services Offender Supervision Agency. This document reviews all the guidelines, reviews your performance on parole and probation, and provides a summary of the interview that will be conducted by Court Services prior to your sentencing hearing (although this does not always happen). Now pay attention! Surprisingly, the pre-sentencing report can be dead wrong as to sentencing standards, ranges, and even convictions on your record. You must be ready to argue the facts and the conclusions that CSOSA places on the record. If you do NOT do this, you run the risk of getting a very bad sentence indeed. The government is required to provide this report to you prior to your hearing, and if they do not, it is appropriate to request a continuance to review and possibly challenge the contents of that report.

Sentencing is a CRITICAL component of a criminal process. Do not think that a conviction is the end of representation. Hardly.

Are you facing a sentencing hearing without counsel? Would you like another set of eyes to review what a fair sentence would be in your case? Do you need help rehabilitating yourself prior to your sentencing hearing? Call us -- we have considerable experience with criminal matters. 703-402-2723.

Sean Hanover, Esq.
Hanover Law
Offices in Fairfax and DC
888 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20006

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