Written by attorney Cy M. Abdo

Michigan Sentence: What do you say to the Judge at the time of sentence?

Every defendant is given an opportunity to speak at the time of sentence for a criminal case. At every sentencing, the attorney for the defendant is afforded an opportunity to speak on behalf of his or her client. This allows the attorney to summarize the positive aspects of the client and make suggestions regarding a client's unique circumstances. Next, the Judge will ask the defendant if he or she has anything to say. I know that many people reading this guide have experienced this situation. We empathize with people who stand before a Judge paralyzed with nothing at all to say when asked, "Do you have anything to say." The only word that comes to mind for most people is, "No".

Let me say to you that I am shocked at the number of people that have nothing to say at the sentencing phase of a criminal case. Many individuals that appear without a lawyer just lack the experience. However, most of the time, the attorney is to blame for not preparing his or her client for courtroom proceedings. That moment of silence when a defendant says that he doesn't have anything to say is painful and lasts a lifetime. It tells the Judge that the client doesn't care or is just not prepared. We understand that a client is most anxious at the time of his or her sentence. It is the lawyer's job to work with his or her clients and assist them with a statement that can be memorized or read at the time of sentencing. At the very least, it will show the Judge that a client is remorseful and has a good attitude. An attorney may also submit any important positive documentation or a "sentencing memorandum" to the court before sentencing.

A few words at the time of sentencing can make a difference in how the Judge looks at the person standing before the Court. Here is example of what a person may say at the time of sentencing for a drunk driving or substance abuse offense:

"Your Honor, This has been the worst experience of my life. I am sorry to my family and the Court. I am most sorry to the person(s) that I have injured by my conduct. I will do everything that I can to avoid getting in trouble again. I have quit drinking and now go to counseling and AA meetings. I have learned a lot from my counselor and am following the 12 Step Recovery Program. I have an AA sponsor. I hope that the court will grant probation so that I can continue my counseling, AA meetings, remain working and going to school. I will abide by every term of probation 100%. Thank you for this opportunity to speak."

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