How Does a Judge Decide What Penalty Someone Faces?

Judges almost always choose the sentence after a conviction. Below, our Austin criminal defense lawyer explains how they decide.

While there are times when a jury decides a person’s fate after conviction, it is almost always the judge that determines the sentence. Judges have many options when making the decision including probation, community service, and jail sentences. There are many factors a judge will consider when making these decisions. Below, our experienced Austin criminal defense attorney explains what they are.

Maximum and Minimum Sentences

Judges will first consider the minimum and maximum sentences for a particular crime, which is typically outlined in the law. For example, the minimum sentence a person can face for a first-degree felony is five years in prison and so, the judge will first consider this. The judge will also hear arguments from defense lawyers, which may include case law that can help the court determine the sentence.

Criminal History

The next factor a judge may consider is the defendant’s criminal history. Defendants convicted of their first offense are more likely to get a lighter sentence than someone who has a long history of criminal activity. This is due to the fact that people with a criminal history are considered more likely to commit another criminal offense than someone who has never committed a crime before. Often, first offenders only receive probation or community service.

Type of Crime

The type of crime committed will also have a significant impact on someone’s sentence. For example, a person convicted of assault may only spend one year in jail, while another who committed murder may face life in prison. The more severe the nature of the crime, the harsher the sentence is.

Expression of Remorse

Many judges will consider whether a defendant seems remorseful for their actions. The defendant can express their remorse through their overall demeanor at trial or through an oral or written statement. Showing real remorse for what was done can help a defendant obtain leniency from a judge.

Risk to the Community

A significant factor a judge will consider is the risk of releasing the defendant back into their community. For example, if someone was convicted of sexual assault, they will likely face at least two years in prison because this is considered a violent crime that places others at risk of harm. Someone convicted of shoplifting, on the other hand, may only be sentenced to community service. The lower the risk to the community, the better chances one has of avoiding time in jail or prison.

Rehabilitation vs. Punishment

Judges understand that some people would benefit from rehabilitation more than they would incarceration. If a judge finds that a defendant can return to the community and contribute to society, they may sentence them to community service rather than jail time.

Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyer in Austin for Help Today

If you have been charged with a crime, our Austin criminal defense lawyer at Granger and Mueller, PC, can provide the legal advice you need so you obtain the fairest sentence possible. Call us now at 512-474-9999 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation with our attorney.