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Am I going to go to prison if I’m convicted of a crime?

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2024 | Criminal Defense

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, then your primary concern is probably whether you’re going to go to jail or prison. That’s a legitimate worry, especially since it can devastate your career and your personal life. But the answer to the question isn’t as straightforward as some people might expect.

There are several contributing factors that can impact whether you’ll face incarceration, which means you’ll have to appropriately address them to minimize the risk.

Before proceeding with your criminal defense, a firm understanding of the stakes involved in your case and the various risk factors in play is paramount. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what puts you at greater risk of being sentenced to jail or prison time.

Factors that increase your risk of incarceration

To figure out the criminal defense strategy that’s best under your circumstances, you have to know what the court will look for when imposing penalties upon conviction. This includes each of the following:

  • The severity of the offense: Though a misdemeanor can result in jail time, it’s much more likely that you’ll face incarceration if you’re convicted of a high-level felony. Therefore, the specific crime for which you’re convicted can play a significant role in the penalties that are imposed against you. This is why in a plea bargain it’s best to seek reduced charges.
  • Your criminal history: First time offenders are sometimes let off easy, especially if the offense in question isn’t severe. But if you have a history of criminal wrongdoing, then the court may be more comfortable imposing more significant penalties against you, which could include incarceration.
  • The damage caused by criminal wrongdoing: The harm caused to any victims, including a business, will also be considered when determining appropriate penalties. Therefore, if a victim was irreparably harmed by the offense in question, then you’re more susceptible to more severe punishment in the form of incarceration.
  • Your demeanor: The criminal justice system is meant to punish individuals for wrongdoing and to deter them from engaging in similar behavior in the future. If you come across as someone who doesn’t care that they’ve broken the law, then the court may be more inclined to punish you more severely to make you care. If you come across as remorseful, though, then the court may exercise leniency.
  • Any corrective action you’ve taken on your own: Similarly, if you can demonstrate to the court that you’ve taken steps on your own to remedy the behavior that gave rise to criminal charges, then you’re more likely to gain sympathy from the judge, which could spare you from the harshest penalties allowable under the law. If you don’t, though, then the court might think that harsher penalties are warranted.
  • Any alternatives to incarceration: Some criminal convictions lend themselves to treatment rather than incarceration. So, if you struggle with a substance abuse or mental health issue, then you might have room to argue that incarceration isn’t needed, and that appropriate treatment should instead be ordered.

Develop a strong criminal defense strategy that seeks to avoid incarceration

Looking at the big picture, the court is going to assess the crime in question as well as any mitigating and aggravating factors before deciding which penalties to impose.

Therefore, if to avoid incarceration and other severe penalties, you have to be prepared to either negotiate a favorable plea deal, persuade prosecutors to drop the case, aggressively fight to avoid conviction at trial, or present a strong case for leniency at sentencing. This can all be stressful to deal with, but this isn’t something that you have to face on your own. And you can and will get through this, so stay focused on your future and your defense.