Do Judges Punish or Rehabilitate?

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Judge SentencingOne of the hardest things that a Judge has to do is sentencing a defendant.  Sentencing is the time when the judge has the greatest power over a person’s life and will ultimately decide what happens with the person’s life.

Judges are typically experienced attorneys.  They have served as public defenders or prosecutors and know exactly what will happen to a person when the defendant is sentenced.  They understand that time spent in jail will result in losing your job, in difficulty finding employment, in a permanent loss of status and credibility in life, and the myriad other things that come with conviction.

Knowing what will happen, the judge must decide how a person should be treated.  The decision will hinge on whether the judge decides to punish or to rehabilitate.  As such, the ability of a defense attorney to argue effectively at sentencing is crucial.  it sets the stage for the way the judge will perceive the defendant and help to shape the person as one deserving of rehabilitation as opposed to punishment.

When a defense attorney effectively helps shape the defendant in front of the judge by presenting the good aspects of the person, the defendant is in the best position to receive a favorable sentence (or as favorable as any sentence can be).

With the defense attorney’s perspective, the judge will also consider the statements from people like victims and the victim’s family.  These statements should be prepared for and should be put into context so that the Judge understands why the crime occurred and what can be done to alleviate the damage of the crime.  The Judge will also listen to the prosecutor and probation.  With all of this information, the judge will determine whether to punish or to rehabilitate.

Hopefully you will find yourself in a position to present your best side and hopefully the judge will be receptive of your arguments.  Sometimes the crime is simply too severe for the judge to consider rehabilitation, not matter how good a person you might be.  Other times, the judge may be compassionate and do everything in his power to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.  For example, the judge may simply seek to punish a person when there is a victim who has suffered severely (such as a murder case).  On the other hand, the judge may seek to help a drug addict who is facing his first drug charge.

If you are facing a sentencing, make sure that you talk to your Criminal Defense Attorney about who you are so that he can present your best side at sentencing and hopefully help you look better in front of the Judge.


The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca