Procedural crime television shows, courtroom dramas, and suspense thrillers in our current world of pop culture tend to present the bad guy as just that – a “bad guy.” Not a lot of dimensions to the “bad guy” in most cases. Unless of course you have an effective sentencing advocate.
Take the television show Law & Order, for example. How does virtually every episode end? With a jury verdict. It is guilty or not guilty, and then the credits. We learn very little about the sentencing phase of the case. We often learn very little about the “bad guy,” except for the fact that he is . . . well . . . bad.
Looking at a Defendant in Three Dimensions, Not One
The stories that we tell ourselves often – not always, but often – depict the criminal through the prism of good and bad, us and them. The bad guy is not really someone with whom we can relate. Rather, he or she is the person that needs to be vanquished, and his or her circumstance does not demand much of our concern.
That very sentiment is played out in our elections as well. Politicians who lack a certain set of scruples (and you know who we’re talking about) will try, for their advantage, to tap into people’s fear of criminals, or immigrants, or minorities. Simply put, they will exploit the idea that there are some people who are the “other,” the “bad,” the “not us.” That viewpoint reflects the most base instinct of human nature.
By contrast, the enlightened viewpoint is one that understands that we are all human. The simplistic desire to separate people into “good” and “bad” is not realistic. We all have capacity for good and bad. Some of us make mistakes. Some of us make terrible, life-altering mistakes. But all of us deserve to have our circumstances understood in three dimensions, rather than have us be dismissively labeled the “bad guy.”
Sentencing Advocates Help Us See The Full Picture
That is what a good sentencing advocate does. A sentencing advocate will do what is necessary to make sure that all of the necessary parties – the judge, the prosecutor, the probation officer – know all the dimensions of a person facing sentencing. While there is no question that a person must accept punishment for a crime he committed, a vital part of the sentencing phase is to ensure that the punishment fits the crime based on all the relevant factors, including the path to how the defendant came to be standing before the court today.
Choosing A Sentencing Advocate: The 5 Tips
If you have been convicted of a crime and are in need of a person to help you create of narrative about your life before a sentencing court, you need to choose a good sentencing advocate. Here are five tips on what to look for.
Tip #1: A Passion for Law and A Passion for Justice
Before getting in to whether a sentencing advocacy attorney has the brains to do the job, you need to know a little about where his or her heart is. A good sentencing advocate will want to help the court fashion a sentence that not only takes into consideration the offense, but also the offender. In other words, a sentencing advocate should have a passion for creating a narrative about you that gives context to the crime, and results in a just, reasonable sentence.
Tip #2: Experience in the Field
As with any service, you would hope for a little experience. You’re not going to turn over your heart surgery to just any guy with a knife. When choosing a sentencing advocate, you want someone with a track record of sentencing cases, and hopefully sentencing success stories. There are a lot of attorneys in the world, and a lot of criminal defense attorneys. But not all of them do sentencing advocacy work. Make sure that the person you are considering has experience specifically with sentencing advocacy, with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and has worked in the jurisdiction where your case resides.
Tip #3: Realistic = Credible
A sentencing advocate has to have a reasonable, realistic view of the world. A federal judge would not put a lot of stock in someone who advocated for a sentence of probation when the crime is murder. Rather, you want to have an advocate who can see the 30,000-foot view of a case, understand the interests of the parties – i.e., have an ability to “read the courtroom,” if you will – and tell your story in the context of the offense. With a realistic perspective, your sentencing advocate can be persuasive in recommending sanctions that are appropriate based on your life, not just on the sentencing range at the end of Sentencing Guidelines equation.
Tip #4: Find Someone Who Can Relate to You
Having a rapport with someone can make the attorney-client relationship that much easier. Further, a good sentencing advocate will have the ability to relate to you and explain any legal complexities in a way that is understandable and easy to digest. If you find someone with whom you can relate, that is someone who should probably advocate for you at sentencing.
Tip #5: Trust Your Instincts
The age-old adage “go with your gut,” is an age-old adage for a reason. At the end of the day, you can get a feeling about whether an attorney-client relationship will work. Don’t forget to listen to your instinct when it comes to working with someone on your case. The sentencing advocate’s job is to get to know who you are, who the people in your life are, and then present your story, in all of its dimensions, to the court. You need to feel good about, and trust, the person who will be doing that presentation for you.
For a passionate, credible, and knowledgeable sentencing advocate, consider working with Brandon Sample, Esq. With many, many sentencing matters on his docket, he is poised to provide top quality advocacy on your behalf, call 802-444-HELP for a free consultation or submit an e-mail request today.