3 reasons an advocate is critical in the sentencing phase of a criminal case, P.2

Last time, we began speaking about the importance of strong criminal defense in the sentencing phase of the criminal process. As we’ve already noted, one reason for this is that having a zealous advocate ensures that a defendant has representation in the accurate calculation of sentencing factors.

Picking up where we left off, an experienced criminal defense attorney will help highlight factors in a criminal case which serve to minimize the offense seriousness level in the federal sentencing scheme. This includes adjustments for accepting responsibility, making restitution for the offense, and pleading guilty. Accurate calculation of a defendant’s criminal history category is also important to ensure proper consideration of the sentencing guidelines.

Downward departures

Another important way a criminal defense attorney can advocate for a defendant in the sentencing phase of the criminal process is to highlight factors in the case which call for sentencing outside the prescribed sentencing range. Here we are specifically speaking about sentencing range departures.

Under the sentencing guidelines, judges are allowed to depart from the guideline range under certain circumstances, either imposing a stricter sentence or a more lenient sentence. A skilled criminal defense attorney will do everything possible to help ensure that all relevant case factors are considered with respect to downward departures in sentencing.

Minimizing the overall sentence

Finally, a criminal defense attorney can provide advocacy in sentencing by appealing to a judge’s discretion and making persuasive argument for lighter sentencing. The federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory, but judges do take them into consideration. In some cases, there may be certain aspects or factors of a case which warrant consideration of a sentence which doesn’t emerge from the guidelines. In such cases, a zealous advocate can help give a defendant the best possible opportunity to minimize his or her sentence.


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