When an individual is charged and convicted of a crime, one of the first questions that is often asked is what the sentence will be. The answer in nearly every case is different. In order to fashion an appropriate sentence, trial court judges in the Ohio are guided by sentencing statutes that explain the purposes of felony sentencing and establish the penalty ranges for an offense.
The criminal defense attorney is tasked with advocating to convince the judge to impose the lowest appropriate sentence. A lawyer often achieves this goal by telling a story that weaves together statutory considerations with a defendant's personal history and characteristics.
The general purposes of felony sentencing are set forth in Ohio Revised Code § 2929.11(A), which states as follows:
The overriding purposes of felony sentencing are to protect the public from future crime by the offender and others and to punish the offender using the minimum sanctions that the court determines accomplish those purposes without imposing an unnecessary burden on state or local government resources. To achieve those purposes, the sentencing court shall consider the need for incapacitating the offender, deterring the offender and others from future crime, rehabilitating the offender, and making restitution to the victim of the offense, the public, or both.
This statute goes on to explain that a sentence should also be "commensurate with and not demeaning to the seriousness of the offender's conduct and its impact upon the victim, and consistent with sentences imposed for similar crimes committed by similar offenders." R.C. § 2929.11(B). R.C. § 2929.12 then sets forth additional factors to be considered. These factors include considering "the seriousness of the conduct," "the likelihood of the offender's recidivism," and "any other factors that are relevant to achieving those purposes and principles of sentencing." R.C. § 2929.12(A). When imposing a sentence, a trial court must consider the principles and purposes of sentencing in R.C. § 2929.11 and balance the seriousness and recidivism factors under R.C. § 2929.12.
In practical terms, a defendant's presentation at a sentencing hearing should touch on three themes: (1.) what is different about the defendant's life, (2.) what led the defendant to commit a crime, and (3.) why is the defendant unlikely to commit offenses in the future. Prior to the sentencing hearing, the trial court judge will know little—if anything—about a defendant's personal life. The court will likely only know whether the defendant has prior criminal convictions and the basic facts surrounding the offense of conviction.
The criminal defense lawyer should tell the defendant's story by elaborating on the person's family history, education, employment, and physical and mental health, just to name a few. More often than not, a successful defense presentation at a sentencing hearing distinguishes the defendant from all others who have previously stood before the judge.
Contact Ian N. Friedman Today
If you have questions regarding felony sentencing in Ohio, or if you or a friend or family member has been charged with a criminal offense, please contact the Cleveland criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Ian N. Friedman. Our experienced team of defense lawyers are prepared to consult with you and answer any questions you may have.