The statistics tell us that the overwhelming majority of cases end up as a guilty plea before a Judge. A small minority of cases go to trial. A small percentage of cases end up in an outright acquittal. So in every criminal case it is necessary to prepare for sentencing. If you never need to use what you have prepared, all the better.
In Colorado, sentences are handed down by Judges. True, the parties get to give the Judge their opinion as to what should happen. But the Judge doesn’t have to follow either parties’ suggestion. That means that the court is free to sentence a person to the penalty range for the charged conduct.
A common perception is that the Judge is the most informed person about the case. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Judge is the least informed about a case. They don’t get to read the police reports before sentencing. They haven’t spent hours studying the case. Instead, if you go to court, you will see Judges plowing through scores of cases every day. Judges simply do not have enough time for all of their cases.
So how do we get a Judge to pay attention to the details of your case? How do we get a Judge to consider your unique and personal factors? First, in order to get this to happen you need to have a lawyer. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will help tell your story to the Judge. One way that I like to do this is to make sure that I file a sentencing statement or documents with the court prior to sentencing. While I can’t make a Judge read what I file, most do so before court. And if they don’t, this filing still shows the court that you are unique, you have done things to address why you are in court. In short, the goal is to tell a Judge that you aren’t coming back to their court room.
Remember, Judges are people. Like everyone else, they have goals for their job. First, Judges want to be sure that they are treating people fairly. They want to be sure that the sentence they have handed down won’t be criticized. And they want to be sure that the person they are sentencing is taking the process seriously.
In my over 20 years of practice, I have witnessed the difference a thorough, detailed, and thoughtful sentencing plan can make for a client. If you are in trouble, give me a call. I would love to help you.