Opportunities for legal strategy exist even after the verdict

In the criminal justice system, a trial verdict is not necessarily the final word. Indeed, there are a variety of post-conviction proceedings that might be of benefit to a criminal defendant.

As background, there are instances where a court might schedule a separate sentencing hearing instead of deciding upon a sentence immediately after the defendant either plead guilty or was found guilty. To the extent that a court is not constrained by mandatory sentencing guidelines, this may be a crucial opportunity for advocacy.

Specifically, a court might consider various mitigating factors before determining an accused’s punishment. Such factors may include: previous criminal history, if any; whether the crime resulted in any injuries; an accused’s mental state at the time of the crime; and/or the degree of violence involved.

Of course, a criminal defendant can benefit from an experienced attorney's advocacy throughout the criminal process. At the front end, a consultation with a criminal law attorney might clarify the potential charges that a defendant may be facing. That meeting may impact the trial strategy, such as pursing a reduced or lesser sentence through negotiations with prosecutors.

However, it is important to follow an attorney’s instructions when seeking reduced or lesser punishment. Statements made to others could be used against a defendant, possibly even admitted into evidence as an admission or confession. In the same vein, agreeing to a police polygraph may also be counterproductive to a defendant’s best interests. Inconsistent results might be construed as a “fail” and used as psychological pressure against an accused.

The bottom line is that all matters of criminal defense strategy, from the arrest through any sentencing and post-conviction requests, should be coordinated with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, “Sentencing Law FAQs,” copyright 2016, Thomson Reuters

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