Deciding Your Fate


My guess is that one billion percent of My City readers are miles from ever facing criminal charges. If you skip this article though, chances probably increase by a factor of ten that you will have police interaction … With that in mind, let’s start discussing procedures in the criminal justice process.

We’ll start with sentencing – this is, of course, when you have already pled guilty to a crime and now, the judge assigned to your case will determine your penalty. Obviously, there’s a lot riding on this hearing.

First thing: show up for court in the best clothes you own. If you have a suit, wear it; white shirt, conservative tie. If you don’t have a suit, wear the best shirt you have – certainly something with a collar and do not wear jeans. No matter how hot it might be outside, do NOT wear shorts. This is important. No T-shirts, either – the number of people who show up to court wearing a T-shirt with an inappropriate message is astonishing! Don’t be that person.

When your case is called to be heard, you and your attorney will approach the podium. Stand up straight, place both hands on the podium and look directly at the judge. You will be nervous. Frankly, if you are not nervous standing in front of a judge, I have concerns. Breathe. Keep breathing. Address the court as “Your Honor.” The answer to every question will be “Yes, Your Honor” or “No, Your Honor.” The judge worked hard to get to this position; show proper respect for the person who will decide how difficult your life might be. If you have questions about what is happening during the process, you can always call time out for private discussion with your attorney.

Before being sentenced for some misdemeanors and any felony, you will have met with probation personnel who will compile a Presentence Investigation Report. The court will use this document to get a better understanding of your case. You will have a chance to read the report with your attorney – read it carefully. At sentencing, the judge will ask if any additions, corrections or deletions need to be made. If so, you and your attorney can bring this to the court’s attention. If you are in the unfortunate position of being incarcerated, this document will follow you to the Michigan Department of Corrections (prison). Specifically, review the section that discusses your family history, as this could have a huge effect on who can visit you in prison.

After asking if there are any issues with the Presentence Report, the judge will ask the prosecuting attorney what they would like to say about the case, then ask your attorney and finally, you will have the chance to address the court. I cannot stress this enough: do not stand before the court and say you have nothing to say! The judge will not smile down upon you. You need to express remorse or sorrow for whatever happened. If you have a drug or alcohol problem, explain what you have been doing to address that issue. Your strategy should be to explain to the judge what happened, why it happened and what you are doing to make sure it never happens again. Own your crime. You can explain why it might have happened, but do not minimize it. There are not many things that will upset a judge more than hearing you make excuses or blame others for what you did.

Should you find yourself convicted of a crime and face sentencing, these tips could keep it from being worse than it should be.

Take care and be safe out there.


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