Although DUI laws typically come with predetermined punishments for the crime, judges generally have some leeway when it comes to sentencing defendants. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be possible to influence how the judge perceives you, which may result in a lighter or reduced sentencing. Here are two things you and your attorney should work on after you're convicted.
Improve Your Presentencing Profile
Judges are too busy to personally investigate every defendant that comes into their courtrooms. Therefore, they depend heavily on recommendations from prosecutors and what's called presentence reports to help them decide what punishments to hand down for the DUI conviction. Unless you entered a plea bargain with the prosecutor—which is not possible in every state—there isn't much you can do to influence what he or she will tell the judge. However, you can improve your profile on your presentence report, which may inspire the judge to go easy on you.
A presentence report is a document prepared by a probation officer that lists pertinent details about you (e.g. previous criminal record, job status, etc.), the officer's impression of you, and his or her recommendations for punishment. The officer will interview you to obtain the necessary information. Therefore, it's important you make an effort to tell the interviewer as many good things about yourself as possible.
For instance, if you enrolled in a drug and alcohol treatment program, be sure the interviewer knows that. It could indicate to the person you are serious about getting your life back on track and he or she may recommend a reduced sentence to help you.
Other things that can help your case include:
- Getting a job if you're unemployed
- Enrolling in school
- Talking about your community involvement
- Participating in charity work
- Discussing your military history
- Discussing your status as a first-time offender
It may also be helpful to bring up alternative forms of punishment. Probation officers are also busy and may rely on boilerplate recommendations to save time. Suggesting alternative punishments, such as home detention, may force him or her to stop and really consider your case and make a more appropriate recommendation for you.
Write a Statement on Your Behalf
Another thing you can do is write a statement about the crime and why you should receive a lighter sentence. If written well, the judge may feel you have learned your lesson (so to speak) and opt for a lesser punishment. However, you have to be sincere and compelling. For instance, if you're a first-time offender, you could emphasize the impact the conviction may have on your future prospects. If the DUI was victimless (e.g. no injuries, no property damage) this may have the desired impact.
For more ideas on things you can do to avoid a harsh DUI punishment, contact a firm such as The Gentry Firm.