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4 factors that can affect sentencing for criminal offenses

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, one of the first questions you might have is what type of sentence you are facing. Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer in most cases. 

Possible sentences depend on a wide range of factors, and these factors vary by case, jurisdiction and court. Below, we look at four of these factors and how they can affect a possible sentence for a criminal offense.

  1. Where did the offense occur? Laws vary from state to state. For instance, a sentence for a drug offense in Pennsylvania can be very different from a sentence for the same offense in Texas.
  2. Were there any aggravating factors? If you are accused of a crime that took place near a school or involved vulnerable people, or if you had a weapon at the time, then these could all lead to more serious penalties than if such factors were not involved.
  3. Are you facing state or federal charges? Generally speaking, federal courts will impose harsher sentences than state courts for convictions.
  4. Who is the judge? As noted in this article on sentencing laws, any two judges can hand down two very different sentences. Some are more aggressive by nature, others are more forgiving; some favor harsh penalties while others favor rehabilitation for certain offenses. Because of this, going to trial can either work for or against a person.

As you can see, there are many factors that can affect a sentence. Some of them may be under your control; others are completely out of your hands.

Because of how confusing and uneven sentencing can be, it can be crucial to have legal representation if you are accused of a criminal offense. An attorney can fight to have charges reduced or dismissed to minimize the penalties. Legal counsel can also help you understand the legal options ahead of you and what you can do to defend yourself and avoid overly harsh or unfair sentences. 

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