When is the right time think about a sentence-mitigation plan?
Answering that question reminds me of an old saying about the best time to plant an oak tree. I heard a speaker ask that question to members of his audience. Predictably, audience members ventured a guess.
In the morning? In the winter? In the summer? No one had a clue.
Pausing for dramatic effect, the speaker then gave the answer. The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.
We could say the same thing about a sentence-mitigation plan. Too often, a defendant doesn’t do anything to prepare for the sentencing hearing.
It’s understandable. Many defendants don’t think of themselves as criminals. Regardless of what type of activity brought them to the attention of authorities, they think that they’re different, immune from the law enforcement. They may not know anyone that has been through the criminal justice system, and they cannot conceive of themselves going into the system.
How do you see yourself?
But authorities saw me differently. In their eyes, I violated securities laws. That made me a target for prosecution. And when federal authorities target a person for prosecution, their conviction rates exceed 85 percent. With those odds, it makes a lot of sense to begin thinking about a sentence-mitigation plan at the soonest possible time. Regardless of what type of charge a person faces, it’s important to realize that sentencing proceedings will likely follow. Sentence-mitigation plans can help.
Start with an understanding of what the defense attorney will do. Attorneys will work with:
The evidence against the individual, The procedural rules that determine what evidence the court will consider, The substantive law that Congress has passed, The case law that judges have decided, The prosecutor’s ability to prove a case against the defendant. To succeed, the defense attorney will exercise judgment and discretion, fighting valiantly to get the best possible outcome for the defendant. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will be analyzing the case and pressing forward to get the outcome they want. Rather than justice, the prosecutor will strive for a conviction. The defense attorney will parry the prosecutor’s efforts, always assessing the strength of arguments that he can use.
While the defense attorney may be a great analytical thinker, he may not have time to listen to the defendant’s life story. For that reason, every defendant should invest the time and energy to present that life story.
A life story can make all the difference in the world when it comes to sentencing. Indeed, our team has worked closely with many federal judges. Our website includes two interviews that my partner Michael did with federal judges. Michael asked those judges what steps a person could take to influence the judge’s decision. Each judge responded by saying that, when it comes to sentencing, they want to hear from defendants.
Our interviews with both judges are available for free through our Prison Professors YouTube channel, under the following playlist:
Judge Mark Bennett from the Northern District of Iowa Judge Stephen Bough from the Western District of Missouri How to Prepare for Sentencing: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLf7W0veN3NWbq9nzGNmhQliFbqmaXz26y If you cannot access the link because you’re reading this book in print, simply Google How to Prepare for Sentencing + Prison Professors and you’ll find our helpful videos on YouTube or text the following word, to the following number:
Text word: Sentence Text to number: 44222 You’ll get an automatic brochure sent to your phone. Defense Attorney’s Position:
Some defense attorneys support a pro-active sentence-mitigation plan, while other defense attorneys resist such initiatives. Why?
As stated above, attorneys are