Frequently Asked Questions about Sentencing
Let an Experienced New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyer Answer Your Questions about Sentencing
Punishment for a crime takes many forms, including diversion programs, probation, fines, jail, or prison. The severity of the punishment will depend on the crime, your criminal record, and a few other factors.
At the end of your case, the sentencing phase begins. The sentencing phase comes after you have been convicted or plead guilty to a crime; therefore, your case is almost over.
What types of sentences are there?
Sentences vary and depend mainly on the evidence and severity of the offense. A felony carries the harshest penalties, while misdemeanors have fewer years in jail (if any). The most common types of sentences include:
- Probation – Instead of going to jail or prison, you are released but with limitations. There are conditions that you must follow carefully. If you fail to follow your probation conditions it will likely be revoked, which means you return to jail. Probation might include meeting with an officer for regular check-ins, attending counseling, attending classes, maintaining employment, and avoiding contacts with certain people.
- Fines – Fines are punishments demanded by statute. The size of the fine can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Fines are not restitution; therefore, a judge could order that you pay a fine and restitution (a repayment to the victim).
- Jail – Local governments maintain jails, and if convicted of a misdemeanor, you will most likely serve your sentence in the local county jail. Jails typically house those sentenced to one year or less of incarceration.
- Prison – Prisons are state-operated and typically house felons, repeat offenders, and other serious offenders. Sentences for prison can range from one year to life – depending on the crime.
- Death – Death is a serious sentence that is only issued in the most severe crime. Death penalty offenders are housed in special areas of the prison while awaiting the carrying out of their sentence.
Who determines the sentence?
Sentences are punishments – and every crime has a designated punishment range established by statute. The sentencing range allows a prosecutor (during plea negotiations) and the judge to use his or her discretion and decide which penalty should be given to the defendant.
Judges consider criminal history, type of case, defendant’s demeanor, and the severity of the crime to decide a sentence – using statutes as their guide.
Why does my judge want a pre-sentencing investigation?
Judges often use pre-sentencing reports to assist them in determining a proper sentence. These reports are written by a local probation officer, after a defendant is convicted but before the sentencing hearing. The report gives the judge an idea of the circumstances of the crime, and facts about the defendant that may either discourage or encourage the judge to offer a more lenient sentence.
Do you need an attorney for sentencing?
Yes. Sentencing is one of the most critical phases of a case. If you have plead guilty or been found guilty by a jury, you still have a chance to receive a more favorable sentence – depending on your circumstances. Your defense lawyer will present your case in the best light possible, work on the pre-sentencing report, and appeal to the judge to give you the lightest possible sentence allowed.
Hire a Defense Attorney in New Mexico Today
If you have been arrested, you need a criminal defense attorney who will aggressively fight for your freedom. Meet with a defense lawyer from New Mexico Criminal Law Office today to explore your options.
Our attorneys have vast experience with misdemeanors, felonies, DUIs, and sentencing cases. We can help you with each stage of your case, and we are here to educate you on your rights and the criminal process.
Schedule a free consultation at 505-375-4672, or contact us online to get started.