Sentencing Hearings in Los Angeles Criminal Cases

California Sentencing Laws – “Sentencing is one of the most important concepts in criminal defense.” Only the best insider criminal attorneys know how to plan to be successful when sentencing in a criminal case. The court will look at the defendant's background, criminal history, the current offense, aggravating or mitigating factors, and much more. Not every element applies in every case…knowing which to emphasize and how to argue the right ones takes a certain level of experience and familiarity with the matter.

This is why it is imperative to have a savvy criminal defense attorney in your corner, who knows what will sway a particular judge and how to make the arguments that count. I have been practicing as a sentencing hearing attorney for over 25 years.

Sentencing Depends on the Type of Criminal Case

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal case in Los Angeles, one of your significant concerns is going to be what will determine your sentence. The reason for that is that a sentence includes what your punishment is.  In other words, are you going to go to jail?

Are you going to go to prison?  Are you going to be put on probation?  Are you going to have a bunch of time suspended over your head?  Are you going to be ordered to do classes?  Are you going to be called to do Caltrans community service?  What exactly is the punishment going to be?

There's a whole slew of different punishments depending on the exact type of case you have.  For example, in a sex crime case, one of the most extensive punishments that people want to avoid is registering as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290 for the rest of their lives and being put on the Megan's Law website.

If you're being charged with a murder case under California Penal Code 187, you're trying to avoid a life sentence.  In other words, a penalty with life pushed on its back. Suppose you're being charged with a felony DUI under California Vehicle Code 23153. In that case, you're trying to avoid losing your license for many years and being sentenced to prison because you've hurt somebody during that DUI.

Sentencing in a Los Angeles Criminal Case

I can go on and on and on about these sentences.  The type of crime will determine a sentence. See California Criminal Jury Instructions for more information. As you're probably starting to gather, a penalty is particular to a defendant.  In other words, it's not going to be the same sentence for every single defendant.

In addition to looking at the type of crime you've committed, which is very important, they're also looking at the kind of person you are.  Are we dealing with somebody who has no criminal record?  Has ever gotten even a jay-walking ticket or a speeding ticket?

Or are we dealing with somebody who has a terrible career criminal record, or are we dealing with somebody in the middle, and that's one of the most significant factors — what type of person are we dealing with. Because really what the prosecutors and what judges do when they look at a sentence for a person in Los Angeles in a criminal case, they're going to look at, what did we do to this person the last time they did something terrible and are they doing the same type of activity?

If they're going the same type of activity and we sent that person to the county jail, this time we're going to send him to prison, and we're going to send him for a more extended period.  That's the type of mentality you're dealing with when you start to assess what a particular sentence will be.

Type of Damage to a Victim

Other factors that they look at are the type of damage that the defendant caused to a particular victim in a case.  Did the victim lose thousands of dollars that the defendant can't replace? Was the victim seriously injured to such a degree that they will have permanent irreplaceable injuries?  In other words, you can't put them back in their place.  These are the things that drive a sentence in a particular criminal case.

What happened to the victim?  What role did the defendant play in that?  Are there multiple defendants in a case, or is it just one?  These are the type of considerations that judges and prosecutors have. No one thing when it comes to Los Angeles criminal defense; when it comes to sentencing and penalties, the prosecutors and judges are looking out for themselves. You have to think about common sense and logic when I say that.

They're looking at, if I sentence the person to this and I give the person a break, for example, which is what the defense is usually trying to argue, will it come back to haunt me. In other words, let's say somebody gets a DUI, and maybe it's on the borderline of whether a person does jail or not, and the prosecutor or judge says, we're going to go ahead and give him a break.  We won't give him any jail time.  We'll give him a warning.

We'll let him do some community service, and then fast-forward ahead a year, two years, three years, that same person gets in a car, drinks, drives, runs somebody over, and kills them.  Now that prosecutor's colleagues and that judge will look at them and say, you gave this guy nothing.

You didn't even give him any jail time.  There were warning signs here.  This person is dangerous, and you didn't do anything and now look, they've killed somebody.  So, that's what they're looking out for.  That's what you have to understand.

Negotiation in California Criminal Cases

So, when we sit down, talk about a case, and argue sentencing to a judge, we need to say from this frame of reference.  When I sit down and negotiate claims, that's the frame of reference I'm dealing with. In other words, because they're worried you're going to do something else wrong, I'm going to show them all the good stuff you're doing in conjunction with what happened in this one single incident — this aberration — of course, if I have this argument, and be able to say, this person has a great job.

This person is a father, a mother.  This person has many character letters that say lovely things about them.  Maybe this person was at a difficult point in their life, and it's not happen again. You won't have to worry about this particular person because they will not be back in front of you.  This type of argument will make a difference in a sentencing case — to convince the judge or the prosecutor, or both to give the person a break.

Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Give them a chance to show that they can be a productive member of society and they're not going to do this again. So, you have to look at where the defendant is.  You have to look at the impact on the victim of the crime, and you have to argue to a frame of reference that a person is worried that if they give the person a break, it will come back to haunt them.

Keep these things in mind in criminal sentencing. You will be in the best position to get a fair resolution and a resolution that a particular defendant can survive. In other words, the defendant can be able to do the punishment, can be able to be sentenced but still hold all the essential things that they have — their job, their place in society, their ability to move around, their ability to work, their ability to stay free from custody.  These are the things that defendants are worried about.

Sometimes when I have a defendant that's deathly fearful of going into custody, I make sure that I do everything I can to get a resolution that they don't have to go to jail. But sometimes, there's a trade-off for this.  In other words, we want to say to the prosecutor this person can't go to jail.  They're scared of death or prison.  They're not going to commit any more offenses because they do not want to risk going to jail.  Give them this.  This is a worse punishment.

This will teach them more than putting them in jail, especially since the Los Angeles County jail system, which is overcrowded, has so many inmates, and people often do a much smaller percentage of the time.

Serving All LA County Courthouses

I have the knowledge and expertise to ensure that your sentencing hearing goes well. As a sentencing hearing lawyer, I also provide services in Encino, CA; Van Nuys, CA; Pasadena, CA, Burbank, CA, Glendale, CA, and San Fernando, CA. I have the best success in criminal sentencing when I can tell the client's story. Not just what happened in the case, but what and who they indeed are. Many people have had a tough time in life, which has led them to do certain things that are not theirs.

We work hard to show the other side of the equation. With character letters, a thorough analysis of the mitigating factors related to the case, and a solid positive plan moving forward, we can and will make a difference for our clients every day! We can answer your questions about what determines a sentence in a criminal case and how to avoid jail time. Call us to talk with our sentencing hearing attorney in Van Nuys, CA.

A Mitigation Package is a Must Before Sentencing

We present a mitigation package to the prosecutors and judges in almost all of our cases. This is where we lay out the argument to give you the sentence that we want the prosecutor and judge to provide us with the best opportunity to be successful.

Depending on the type of case and circumstances, we will give them character letters from people who know you and can speak to the kind of person you are and give the prosecutor a good look at your best side before a sentencing decision is made affects your life.

We find that a written persuasive argument and a verbal position laid out professionally give you the best chance at a favorable outcome in your case. Sometimes we will get professionals to draft reports on your behalf to show the prosecutor a specific point that could make or break your case.

Doctors and other experts can make all of the difference in sentencing under the right circumstances. The key to the best result at sentencing is to address the issue that the judge and prosecutor will undoubtedly have with your conduct in a particular case and to make sure they believe us when we say that this will not happen again and that we are sorry for what has happened and have learned from the mistake.

Another thing that we do in a case is make sure that we do everything to make the victim whole and let the judge and the prosecutor know that we did it and that we are serious about making things right. This can come in insurance, restitution, and other acts that can show the judge that we made a sincere effort to make things right and put the person we harmed back to where they were before this unfortunate incident. As an experienced sentencing hearing lawyer in the San Fernando Valley, I will ensure that all these matters are addressed.

Percentage of Time in Jail

That's another thing that you have to look at.  If you get jail or prison time, what percentage of that time are you going to do?  That's going to be driven and dictated by a few different factors.  Number one, what type of crime did you commit?

Did you commit a half-time crime where you probably end up doing somewhere between 10% and 25% in the county jail if you get probation?  Did you commit a serious or violent felony where you will be ordered to serve 80% or 85% of the time in prison?

You also want to look at Proposition 57, which allows people to serve a fraction of the time even if they go to prison on time.  So the sentencing and the percentages of time have gotten very complicated, and they've changed multiple times over the last six months, as I put this post in 2020.

So, these are things you have to look at; you have to consider, discuss with your criminal defense attorney and make a good decision on exactly how you're going to proceed with the case, what type of factors your attorney is going to argue related to your sentencing and your punishment in your criminal case in Los Angeles.  

General Sentencing Information in Criminal Cases

If you get convicted of a crime, the last step you will go through is the sentencing hearing. California criminal law provides the defense and the prosecution an opportunity to be heard regarding sentencing after the defendant has been convicted of a crime. This can be done with the help of a sentence hearing attorney. 

Our role as your advocate is vital during the sentencing hearing. As your lawyer, we present any mitigating circumstances to lower your sentence. The prosecution attempts to explain aggravating circumstances to keep the sentence, but we do everything we can to get you the lowest sentence possible post-conviction.

You have the legal right to be present for sentencing, the right to be represented by an attorney and have us present at the sentencing, the right to present evidence, and the right to propose alternative sentencing, and more legal rights you are entitled to that we will discuss with you and explain to you. Make sure you call our office to talk to our lawyers.

If you are convicted of two or more crimes, the judge must decide whether the sentences will run consecutively or concurrently. We will do whatever we can to get your sentences to run concurrently, meaning at the same time, to save some years of your life.

Other factors play a role in sentencing hearings, and we are ready, willing, and available to answer your questions and advocate for you. Our ultimate goal is to protect your freedom entirely, but we will do everything possible to get you the lowest sentence if you happen to get convicted. Please pick up the phone and call us at the Hedding Law Firm to speak with a sentencing hearing lawyer. Set up a free consultation, and we will discuss everything further in detail.