Facing a serious charge, such as murder, is difficult to navigate. Many times, a person’s life and reputation are on the line when they are charged with homicide; thus, many defendants seek to overcome the potential penalties by initiating a defense against the serious allegations. While defendants in Louisiana could endure capital punishment for a murder conviction, it is vital to understand how consequences are determined.
What factors are used during sentencing? While juries determine the guilt and innocence of a defendant, it is the judge that determines the punishment for the crime. However, in cases of murder, a jury can recommend death or life in prison. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlines how sentences are established. For example, it states that there cannot be excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel or unusual punishment inflicted on the accused.
There are statutes and provisions that consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances when determining an appropriate sentence for a convicted crime. When there are aggravating factors, these could increase the punishment from the standard set out for that crime. On the other hand, mitigating factors could help reduce the sentence.
Common factors in these categories include whether the offender is a first time or repeat offender, whether was an accessory in the crime or the main offender, whether the offender committed the crime under great personal stress or duress, whether anyone was hurt or killed and whether the offender was particularly cruel, destructive or vindictive to the offender or if the offender was contrite or remorseful. These details can play a major role in the penalties the offender could face.
When an individual is accused of a serious crime, it is important to understand ways to reduce the impact this allegation could have on his or her life. This means exploring defense options that could help reduce or eliminate the penalties associated with the crime.
Source: Findlaw.com, “Factors Considered in Determining Sentences,” accessed March 5, 2018