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Chapter 5: The Outcome Of Your Arrest: Your Conviction, Sentencing, And Probation

A judge's gavel symbolizes authority and legal decision-making - DC Nguyen LawWhether through a plea deal or a trial in court, one way or another, every arrest has a resolution. In the best of cases, your charges will be dismissed entirely, and you will face no legal consequences, though that does not mean there will not be any at all! Here, I’ll aim to help you understand the other possible outcomes of the judicial process.

Even If Your Case Is Plead Down, There May Still Be Consequences

In the optimistic case in which the charges against you are dropped entirely or dismissed, your criminal record, at least, will be clean. However, if you are convicted of a lesser charge, even if you have made a plea deal to avoid the more serious impacts, chances are you will have to face some consequences.

There may be follow-up treatment classes you have to take, and your insurance company is likely to decide the error merits higher premiums in the future. A plea does not mean the entire incident is forgotten, far from it. You will be within the court’s jurisdiction for years after the conviction, and of course, you will have to serve whatever sentence is determined by the judge.

Sentencing Is The Final Seal Upon Your Conviction

If you do end up entering a plea or receive a conviction in court, sentencing, at least, is not immediate. The delay before sentencing is an opportunity for you to arrange your affairs, especially if you are going to have to spend time in jail or at home with an ankle bracelet.

If you are going into custody for 90 days, after all, you will need to arrange your job, your house, and even your relationships and family affairs. You can generally expect about 30 days before your sentencing hearing. Once you have a sentencing, you can also set a date to turn yourself in within a certain timeframe. As for what will be decided in your sentencing hearing, that will be up to the judge, but within a relatively narrowly predetermined range.

Sentencing Determination: Mandatory Minimums And Mitigating Factors

All serious crimes, such as rape or drug distribution, come with mandatory minimum sentences all judges must abide by. These impose the least amount of jail time and/or the lowest fines that can be given as a result of a conviction for those charges. However, mitigating circumstances can also play a role and come into effect. These are arguments put forward by you and your attorney, which provide justification, extenuating circumstances, or other reasons for the judge to show leniency when sentencing.

For example, in a DUI case, I might bring forward evidence that you have an alcohol problem but are already taking steps to treat it as a mitigating factor. Ultimately, however, the final decision will be up to the judge, who will first need to determine if the law provides them the right to reduce the sentence and then make a ruling.

Nevertheless, The Sentencing Process Is Not Entirely Out Of Your Hands

Just because sentencing is ultimately in the hands of the judge. You should always be receptive to suggestions from your attorney and proactive about shaping your own narrative. The goal is to create and strengthen your arguments for mitigating circumstances. All the evidence you can create of a positive attitude toward resolving the problem will contribute towards a better outcome.

You can do so by showing the judge you are proactive, actively involved in your own rehabilitation, and want to show remorse. Among the many other benefits, such actions may improve your chances of receiving probation instead of jail time.

Probation: A Lighter Sentence With Important Conditions

Probation is an alternative to spending time in jail or prison. The court can decide to allow you to remain free but under certain conditions. If you are convicted in a superior court, you might very well go to the Department of Corrections for one of two types of probation: supervised or unsupervised.

Unsupervised probation is the better of the two. You do not have to pay a fee, struggle under a probation officer, or check in regularly. All you have to do is stay within the court’s jurisdiction and stay out of trouble, following the conditions imposed by your sentence.

Supervised probation, on the other hand, requires regular check-ins, drug tests, compliance monitoring, as well as restrictions like ankle monitors that limit where and when you can go. While this is still infinitely preferable to time in prison, the added restrictions also make it easier to make mistakes and end up ruining your probation.

Which type you receive will depend on the sentence, the crime you are convicted of, and the choice of the prosecutors and judge. However, once you violate probation, the consequences are clear.

Probation Is A Second Chance. Don’t Blow it.

There are few things more distressing than seeing your hard work go down the drain. When I have worked hard to keep a client out of jail, the last thing I want to see is them heading to prison anyway. This is why I am always clear: if you get probation instead of a hard time, treat the blessing carefully and do not throw it away.

Anytime you have a violation of any sort while on probation, the probation officer will report you. Now, suddenly, you are facing an additional crime on your record for violating the terms of your probation. This will carry its own penalties, not the least of which is you will most likely lose the privilege of probation and be forced to finish your sentence in prison.

If there is one lesson to take away from this chapter, it is to take your probation seriously. Remember that the consequences of a violation are severe, and the probation officer is not your friend. They can and will report any violation. In the extremely unlikely event that you believe they may be abusing that position of authority, you know where to find my number, but in the meantime, do what you can to keep your behavior well within the limits imposed by your court sentence.

Alternative Sentencing: Towards A Constructive Rehabilitation Resolution

The courts are not limited to jail time or probation when handing out your sentence. Other possible resolutions exist for specific cases and circumstances which can offer a more positive set of outcomes. There are many alternative programs available, depending on the crime you are charged with. For example, drug court exists as an alternative for drug-related crimes. Whereas the Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) Court handles many mental health-based cases.

In general, these sentencing options arise because the government has no real interest in locking up or punishing ordinary individuals whose crimes were caused or facilitated by mental health problems, drug or alcohol addiction issues, and other emotional troubles – at least not before trying for rehabilitation.

Alternative sentencing options also serve to keep jail populations down, reducing the cost to the court and society while improving your outcome with a second chance. As with probation, however, these often come with conditions and should not be wasted or treated lightly. They are a genuine chance to turn your life around, and every client I can secure these outcomes for is the first half of a success story – the ending is under your control.

For more information on The Litigation Of A Criminal Case In Washington, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (425) 276-7390 today.

DC Nguyen Law

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