When someone is convicted of a crime, the legal proceedings are not necessarily at an end. Depending upon the jurisdiction, the sentencing for the conviction may happen immediately or during a later court date. Either way, the defendant may be able to file some kind of appeal for a reduction in their sentence.
The Statement in Mitigation
Most states have a procedure in place that enables a defendant to complete and file a statement in mitigation document. Typically, the completed document is filed before the sentencing hearing. The convicted defendant may bring forth items they would like the judge to take into consideration before rendering a sentencing decision. For instance, the convicted defendant might point out that they have no prior criminal history or that their family will experience excessive hardship because of their incarceration. This document is also an opportunity for the defendant to express remorse for their actions and to demonstrate that they have excellent prospects for successful rehabilitation. The prosecution may file a statement in aggravation, arguing for all the reasons why the defendant should be given a longer sentence.
The Appeal Process
Even with filing a statement in mitigation document, the defendant may still receive a harsher sentence than they think they deserve. A defendant who believes they are innocent of the crime for which they were convicted or were the victim of a procedural error during the investigation or trial may file for an appeal. Similarly, the convicted defendant who believes they were the target of malicious prosecution may also be eligible to appeal for a sentence reduction.
The legal rules governing appeals are complex and many of them have strict time limits. Accordingly, it usually makes sense to obtain the help of an attorney to file an appeal for sentence reduction. If that isn’t realistic, the defendant will require the help of a friend or family member to file the appeal. Most appeal forms can be downloaded from the court’s website or can be obtained from the courthouse. Visiting the courthouse is a good idea because it provides an opportunity to ask the clerk about how to file the appeal. Whoever files the appeal must take care to do it within the deadlines and to submit the paperwork with any applicable fees. Carefully attach any paperwork that supports the sentence reduction appeal, and make certain to obtain a receipt from the court.