If you have been arrested for a crime and later found guilty. Whether through a plea agreement or convicted after trial, there is still one more hearing you must go through. That is the sentencing hearing where the Judge will impose his sentence. Depending on the type of offence, this can range from no penalty to many years in prison.
At the sentencing hearing, the judge will ask the defendant if he has anything to say regarding his sentence. In that situation, the defendant has the right to say something, or they can choose not to say anything. In my experience, I find it helpful if the defendant decides to say something. Here are some tips when thinking of something to say to the judge.
Apologize for your actions: This is important because the judge wants to know if you are sorry for what you did. I’m not just sorry you got caught. By apologizing to the judge for your actions, you show the judge that you are responsible for your actions and that you are willing to take responsibility.
Explain your background: Generally, most attorneys will tell the judge about the defendant’s background, the incident in question. But I think it’s helpful if this information comes from the Defendant. If he is convicted of a DUI and suffers from alcoholism, tell the judge. Tell them how you fight this disease and that you are doing everything you can to control it.
Discuss the positives that come out of this experience: Obviously, being arrested and convicted of a crime does not have many positives. But if you can tell the judge what he learned from this and how he won’t make the same mistake twice, it’s very helpful. For example, if you are convicted of a DUI and now tell the judge that you recognize how much alcohol may be in his system to be affected by it. Or discuss what he learned in alcohol drug treatment or classes. These actions will be more powerful than any words you can say. Which brings me to my next point.
Complete Sentencing Aspects Before Sentencing: In a typical first offense DUI case, most judges will order an alcohol and drug evaluation and alcohol classes. If you can complete these classes before they are imposed, this will reflect more favorably on you.
You will never do this again: This goes hand in hand with apologizing to the court. But I find that judges are really receptive if a defendant tells them that he will never appear before this court again. Now obviously if you have a prior criminal record this is not going to be as effective. But if you’ve never been in trouble before, this will help reassure the judge.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be genuine. If you don’t feel any of the above, then don’t pretend. A judge can detect it and will punish you.