I am back from a sentencing today and again it is obvious. What matters when it comes to sentencing is the protection of society. So says virtually every judge you encounter in any courtroom in any sentencing proceeding.
How can you best demonstrate that your conduct does not pose a risk to the community? That’s what it usually comes down to as the judge decides your sentence. Here are a couple suggestions:
1. Look like you understand the serious nature of the situation. I heard it again today: "you would not believe how people look when they come into their sentencing proceeding." The judge who said that wasn’t just talking about physical appearance, it was bigger than that. In the world of "us and them" you need to look like you are part of the group of folks who follow the law. If you look like you belong in prison, you might just get there. So tone it down and try to fit in. Don’t look dangerous!
2. Be willing to admit that your decisions have put you in this situation. Don’t make excuses for your conduct. Admit that it was wrong and explain what you have learned since the situation that brings you to court.
3. Do not claim that "it was all just a big mistake." That never sells. Never. Judges hear about the "big mistake" all the time. You likely made a decision, not a mistake. If you admit that, you have the chance of appearing remorseful. Blame it on some "mistake" and the court will not be swayed to think that you would never repeat the crime. If the judge thinks you will repeat the crime, you are going to get a tougher sentence.
Look – the whole reason for the justice system is to protect society. It’s less about fairness than it is about reality. If the court is not convinced that you can be counted on to follow the law, you cannot expect to minimize the consequences of your actions. So pay attention in the courtroom, act like you get it, and try to look more like an observer than a criminal.