There are many aggravating and mitigating factors in Prince William County crimes that judges take into consideration when sentencing a person. However, there are certain steps everyone could take with the help of an attorney to prevent an accumulation of negative factors. When you have been alleged to have committed an offense, you need to work with an attorney who could limit aggravating factors and who could help you demonstrate your best qualities in hopes to mitigate consequences.
Some examples of aggravating factors that could impact sentencing are the damage to an alleged victim and an alleged offender’s previous record. In cases in which someone has a bad record going into a case, the judge takes that into consideration. In cases in which there is some serious injury to the alleged victim, that is also taken into consideration. Most of the aggravating factors or most of the things that cause a harsher sentence to be imposed are taken into account by the Virginia sentencing guidelines.
When someone is sentenced by a judge in Prince William County, the judge would, in most cases, review standardized sentencing guidelines to see what the standard guideline sentence is for someone who has a similar record and is similarly situated to the client. The guidelines are not binding on the judges in Prince William County. The guidelines are only recommendations. It is possible for a judge to sentence someone higher than the guidelines and it is possible for the judge to sentence someone less than the guidelines, but the judge has to have a reason for sentencing someone outside the guidelines. They have to be able to articulate that reason.
If an attorney wants the judge to sentence someone outside the guidelines, they have to present the judge with all the reasons why they should sentence someone outside the guidelines and the other factors they should take into account. Likewise, a prosecutor would often argue that some factors are especially aggravating and should be taken into account. Those aggravating factors, such as injury to an alleged victim and someone’s criminal history, go into the sentencing are generally accounted for in the sentencing guidelines. It is uncommon for a prosecutor to argue that a particular factor should outweigh other factors that are not already considered by the guidelines.
Some examples of mitigating factors that could impact sentencing are somebody’s education, employment history, the type of work they do, the things they have done to undo any hurt that was caused by the alleged crime and every step they have taken to improve their personal life since the alleged crime. Unlike aggravating factors that are typically accounted for in sentencing guidelines, many of the things considered mitigating factors are left for the defendant to present to the court. There are some things that the information is available to the judge through the sentencing guidelines, such as if someone has no previous criminal history or there is no injury to an alleged victim.
For example, in a case in which someone is charged with a DUI offense, mitigating evidence may be that they have had a serious problem, they are an alcoholic, and they are addressing that problem by attending AA meetings, attending therapy, or participating in a program to maintain sobriety. If someone has a problem with sobriety is able to show the judge mitigating evidence that they have been able to maintain their sobriety since the case has occurred and they are turning over a new leaf in life, it could be very strong mitigating evidence.
Similarly, if someone whose offense has to do with theft or fraud because they have not had any steady employment, they are able to show that they have done everything they could to maintain steady employment, and they are working hard on their education and improving their employability, those are strong mitigating factors to be able to present to the court.
Some ways an attorney could advocate on behalf of a defendant during the sentencing phase include distilling all of the arguments and all of the information about sentencing for the judge. It is the most important way. Whether that comes in the form of a written memorandum or a spoken argument, the goal of a good defense attorney is to present all of the information that the judge should consider as part of sentencing in a meaningful way so the judge could extract the important points and determine what the most appropriate outcome is for that individual.
Along those lines, an extremely useful factor to sentencing often is coming up with a plan of how someone is going to live their life after sentencing. In many cases, the most important thing for many judges to consider in a sentencing hearing is what the next step is going to be. Aggravating and mitigating factors in Prince Williams County crimes affect those steps. Because of this, you need to consider working with an attorney prior to sentencing.
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