If you pled guilty to a crime or were found guilty at trial, your case is not over. The next stage of your case is sentencing, which will involve investigations and court appearances to determine what penalties you will face and how long you will spend in jail. If you were unhappy with your lawyer’s representation at trial and want a new lawyer for sentencing, that is usually within your rights. Otherwise, it is best to think about sentencing before you even go to trial, and you can call a lawyer to help with sentencing and the rest of your defense case very early in the process.
For a free legal consultation with our Maryland attorney for sentencing representation, call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today. Our attorneys represent defendants in all stages of their criminal cases and work to get charges dropped or reduced and keep sentences low so that our clients can stay out of jail if possible. To set up your free legal consultation, call our attorneys today at (410) 694-7291.
How Sentencing Works in Maryland
Most criminal charges have sentences built into the statute which dictate how much the defendant might pay in fines and how much time they might spend in jail or prison. These terms, however, are usually not specific. In most cases, the statute will give a mandatory minimum and a mandatory maximum sentence and a range of fines. In some cases, there is no minimum, and the statute will say things like “up to five years in prison” or “up to $500 in fines.” Whether there is a minimum or not, it is up to the judge to decide where within that range your final sentence will fall, which means that there is room for a sentencing hearing where your lawyer can fight to get penalties reduced.
Judges are typically bound by the law, which means that they cannot issue a penalty above the mandatory maximum. There might be certain reasons that a judge can deviate upwards for especially serious criminals, but this is rare. This, however, also means that judges are usually bound by mandatory minimums, too, and they cannot issue a sentence lower than the minimum. Judges do still have the right to deviate downwards if there is a good reason to do so, and this can sometimes help penalties get reduced.
Factors for Sentencing in Maryland
When a judge sets the final penalties at sentencing, they will usually look at a few factors. First and foremost, the level of crime the defendant was convicted of will set what the statutory minimums and maximums are, giving the defendant a range to work within. The sentencing guidelines passed by the State of Maryland will usually dictate a default within that range, and then the guidelines set up factors for the judge to look at to determine how far up or down to move the sentence. These factors primarily include past criminal history or “crime score” and the severity level of the offense at hand.
Judges also look at other factors, however, and many of these factors are the kinds of things your attorney can work with to help argue for a reduced sentence. Mitigating circumstances that can help reduce a sentence often include facts such as the following:
- Cooperation with the police and prosecutors
- Willingness to own up to what you did and plead guilty
- The fact that you were a follower and not the leader of the crime
- The roles you play in the community that you cannot perform from behind bars
- Time served in jail while awaiting trial
- Community service and restitution already performed to make up for this offense
- Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction or anger management related to this offense
Types of Sentences in Maryland Criminal Cases
If you are convicted of a crime, there are many different types of penalties and sentences you can face. Not every case involves incarceration – and in some cases, jail time is not even authorized. However, monetary penalties and other penalties are also sometimes used.
If your crime has a prescribed sentence for jail time or prison time, the judge might sentence you to a term of incarceration. This might involve an opportunity for early release, but if you are sentenced to time in jail without the opportunity for parole, you will have to serve the full amount.
Instead of sending you to jail, the judge might set a jail term and then “suspend” it. In that situation, you will be placed on probation and made to follow certain requirements like drug testing and check-ins with your probation officer. If you violate the terms of probation or commit another crime, you will be sent to jail on the predetermined sentence. Otherwise, you are allowed to retain much of your freedom.
Most criminal charges carry fines. These fines are set at sentencing and usually do not include other payments you need to make such as court fees. Restitution is an additional economic penalty you could face that requires you to pay back anyone you hurt in committing the crime. This could be ordered to pay for a victim’s medical bills, the cost of damages or stolen property, or the cost of emergency services related to the crime.
Some cases involve other penalties, such as driver’s license suspensions, restraining orders, registration as a sex offender, civil forfeiture, community services, and mental health treatment. Many of these penalties are aimed at community safety, rehabilitation, and prevention of additional crime.
Call Our Maryland Sentencing Lawyer for Help with Your Case
If you are currently up on charges and need help lowering your future sentence or if you have already been convicted and need a lawyer to handle the sentencing stage of your case, call our Maryland attorney for sentencing representation today. The Law Offices of Randolph Rice offers free legal consultations to help defendants understand their case and learn more about how to proceed. For your free case consultation, call us today at (410) 694-7291.