Judges generally look at your life as three phases:
1. Your entire life leading up to the crime.
2. The crime itself.
3. Everything you've done since the crime.
Our goal is to maximize the positive and to some degree ignore the negative. Ignore the crime itself and focus on positive things you've done before the crime. Most importantly DO positive things after. Find anything you can do that's the right thing to do, and do it for all the right reasons: getting a lighter sentence.
Maximize the 5 sectors of your life.
The positive sectors of your life can be broken down into what I like to call the 5 sectors. You don't have to make progress in all five, but if you haven't done three, you haven't done enough.
1. Drug Treatment.
4. Mental Health/Anger management
5. Community involvement/hobbies.
Over and above all other issues is Drug Treatment. Quite often, the difference between prison and no jail at all is if you have started, on your own, a drug treatment program. If there is even a hint of drug use in your history, check into treatment immediately. DO NOT go to AA or a uncertified Drug Treatment program if you have addictions stretching back many years. Make sure your treatment level is proportionate to, not the problem, but what the Judge believes is the level of the problem.
Collect the proof.
You'll notice, of the five, most can be proven by certain specific facts:
The Drug Treatment program can write a letter detailing your status.
You work can write a letter detailing your job and responsibilities. Your school can give a current class schedule. Don't underestimate these factual certifications that "You have no reason to commit a crime again."
Some jurisdictions require a hundred
percent of the proof must be submitted to the judge through a separate, Pre-sentence office.
Short, simple letters on letterheads is perfect. Something that is easily verified and looks professional. Longer does not equal better.
One simple easy member from a family member or close friend is often a good way to humanize you. DO NOT collect a letter from every member of your family, DO NOT circulate a petition around your clean and sober house. You probably don't need your minor children to write a letter either.
I like to limit this to one or two at the most. Preferably a family member who can talk truly about how you have expressed true remorse to them in private are the best. Anyone who lives with his family, the mother/grandmother has to testify he "takes out the garbage when asked". Anyone who cannot express English well, needs to have a family member say, "When we're alone he tells me, honestly, how horrible her feels. And I know that's true."
Your "Right of Elocution."
Now it comes down to your words. You can write a letter, but if you can make a speech to the judge, I suggest that. It can show your humanity more. Leave out the "I'm sorry for wasting your time"s and the "You'll never see me here again"s. The only thing the judge is looking for, that you can help is 1. True remorse and reflection, and 2. Are you likely to re-offend.
Here is the speech you should use:
Your honor, before this happened I was ________A__________. I made a mistake that night. I'm not good with words but I would do anything to take it back and [if he were here] I want to sincerely apologize to the man I did this to. Since my arrest/release from jail I have ____________B__________ I just want to do the right thing judge. I'm going to do my best.
A = All the things you were doing wrong before the incident.
B = All the things you've done right SINCE the incident. (See section 2 above).
If you can handle the above steps, your attorney shouldn't have to talk. The Judge knows what your attorney wants, and if he does talk, don't think the Judge hasn't heard the same argument (from the same attorney) before.
Let the attorney be the Master of Ceremonies, rather than the main attraction. He can direct the judge to certain high points, but you don't want him to sound more eloquent than you.
No guarantees, but this is the system I've been using for about seven years, and we've had some very good results. You:
1. explain why you offended without using excuses .
2. express real reflection and remorse.
3. show proof (not what you will do in the future, but what systems you have already adopted) that you will not reoffend.
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