Sentencing can happen at two stages in a criminal misdemeanor case: either after your plea is changed or after a trial. This guide will go over what happens leading up to sentencing and what happens during the sentencing process for a misdemeanor.

Change of Plea

Plea deals are a common way to resolve criminal cases. The prosecutor and your defense attorney will negotiate about how to best resolve your case. If they can agree on a good deal, your attorney will get you on the court’s calendar for a change of plea. Before the court date, your attorney will go over the terms of the deal, advise you on your Constitutional rights that you would be giving up if you take that deal, and review the plea forms before you sign and initial them. These forms mean you don’t have to come to court to sit through the court hearing. At times, your attorney may ask you to come to court to sign the plea forms if it strategically makes sense and often to try and get you a better deal by using your presence as bargaining power.

At the hearing, your attorney will change your plea on your behalf. The court will go over the plea forms you signed to verbally verify that you initialed and signed the forms freely, understood the plea terms, and waive your Constitutional rights. After that, the judge will begin sentencing. During sentencing, the judge will verbally lay out on the record the terms of the plea deal, your attorney and the prosecutor will confirm, and the judge will enter the sentence.

One of the major benefits of changing your plea versus going to trial is the cost you save. The trial is very expensive, so resolving the case before trial will save you from unnecessary costs. Another major benefit is that you will usually receive more favorable terms from changing your plea before trial versus being convicted if found guilty after trial. The attorneys at Lamano Law Office have cultivated relationships with judges and prosecutors in several different counties in and around the Bay Area. We will use those relationships to get the best deal possible to resolve your case.

End of Trial

If a trial ends in you being found guilty, the court will hold a sentencing hearing afterward to determine the penalty. The court will normally hold the sentencing hearing a few weeks after the end of the trial to allow both sides to prepare a sentencing memo. The prosecutor’s sentencing memo will include a recommendation for what the sentence should be and the reasons for that recommendation. Your attorney’s sentencing memo will also include a recommendation for a sentence, usually the lowest sentence available, and the reasons for that recommendation.

The judge will use those sentencing memos to make a final decision on sentencing and will sentence you at the hearing. Because this sentence is based on the judge’s experience, the evidence that came up at trial, and the sentencing memos, the sentence may look different than the terms of a negotiated plea deal.

Mitigation and Its Effect on the Sentence and Plea Deals

You can make a big impact on your case’s resolution. At Lamano Law Office, every client is asked to provide information and documents for a mitigation packet. A mitigation packet will include info like letters of support from family and friends, career information like your resume and community service, the classes or programs you’ve been working on or completed for your cases like AA or therapy, and other information that shows who you are beside the charges against you. Often, it will also include pictures of you with your family, at work, or generally, so the judge sees you as a human being and not just another case number. Your attorneys can use the mitigation packet to get more favorable plea deals, so it is important that you provide your attorney with as much information as possible.

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