What will my sentence be? Will I go to jail? For how long?

If you are convicted of, or plead guilty to, a crime, there will be consequences. Consequences range from having the case continued with conditions for a certain period of time, to probation, to a suspended jail sentence, to a number of years to be served in a county jail or State prison. The maximum sentence for each offense is specified in the statute that governs the offense. Unless the offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence (see “What is a Mandatory Minimum Sentence?”), a judge will determine the type and length of any sentence (up to the maximum allowed by statute) after hearing recommendations from the prosecution, the defense and a probation officer. Not surprisingly, the more serious crimes carry the most serious sentences. Many factors may go into the judge’s decision. First, the judge is likely to look at your criminal history, and particularly whether you have been convicted before of this offense or similar offenses. In crimes involving violence the judge considers the particular facts of your case – the level of violence used, how much planning took place, whether the parties involved were strangers, and any injuries or damage suffered by victims. The judge may also consider the vulnerability of the particular victims such as children or the elderly. In crimes involving theft/fraud the judge will likely consider the value (monetary and sentimental) of the items stolen, whether the items were returned, and the level of fear suffered by the victim(s). Generally, the judge may consider a defendant's personal background - abuse victim, level of education, substance abuse history, family dynamics, etc. Lastly, the judge will pay close attention to the person’s attitude; that is to say, whether the person appears to take responsibility and express remorse for his or her actions.
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