Any person facing a criminal charge should think about mitigation at various stages, including the day of sentencing. We’ve published several articles in hopes of helping people understand this concept. Always remember that it’s never too early, and it’s never too late to sow seeds for the best possible outcome.
Thinking about Allocution at Sentencing:
- Step 1: Identify the various stages of the process and contemplate best possible outcomes for each stage.
- Step 2: Question whether you’ve developed the right tools, tactics, and resources to influence success along the way.
- Step 3: We encourage you to use our 25-point scale to assess yourself, on a scale of one-to-four, to determine whether you’re ready. If you’re not scoring 90 points or higher, then perhaps you can do more work.
- Get a free copy of our 25-point score and a free consultation by clicking the link below.
If a person has built a solid mitigation strategy, that person will have prepared long before the presentence investigation interview. In addition, the person will have sown seeds long before the sentencing date. Part of those preparations will include an allocution.
What is a sentencing Allocution?
Basically, a sentencing allocution is a speech before a judge. Members of our team have learned a great deal from our interactions with federal judges. Over the past decades, I’ve spoken with more than 20 federal judges. Every time I spoke with a federal judge, I asked a simple question:
- What steps could a person take before a sentencing hearing to make a favorable impression on you?
Without exception, those judges have told me that they want to hear more and know more about the person standing in front of them. Two of those judges agreed to participate on video with us so that our team could help people understand more. If you haven’t watched those videos, we encourage you to watch the entire series on the link below:
According to a study by Judge Mark Bennett, 99% of all federal judges consider allocution a crucial part of the process. The judges want to listen, watch, and assess whether the person truly understands the magnitude or seriousness of the offense.
Prior to sentencing, a person should consider whether he or she has done everything possible to prepare for that allocution.
Does Allocution Influence Sentencing?
Our team at Prison Professors believes that a person should approach a sentencing hearing as if he or she is about to make the biggest sale of his or her life. After all, this sale may have an influence on liberty. With that end in mind, the person must think about how he or she can make the best presentation. Crafting that strategy isn’t always easy. People have a difficult time engineering how they will present their case before a judge. Those who fail to prepare will outsource the entire process to a defense attorney.
Yet according to the judges we’ve interviewed, a person that wants the best possible outcome should learn to advocate for himself or herself.
Think about the Audience:
The first step in preparing for self-advocacy would be to consider the audience. In this case, the person should think about the background of the federal judge. To make it to the bench, a person must distinguish himself or herself in the eyes of many professionals. That means the person likely has the following credentials:
- Credentials as a legal scholar from one of the nation’s best law schools,
- Distinction among legal peers in various capacities, as a prosecutor, a law professor, an attorney that performed well in complex litigation, judicial experience.
- A network of powerful people that endorsed his nomination with members of Congress and the president of the United States.
This person may listen to what the prosecutor or defense attorney has to say, yet in reality, the judge knows and understands the law. The judge does not need to hear about various statutes or case law, because the judge knows all of that. On the flip side, judges with whom we’ve spoken told us that they don’t know enough about the people standing before them. In fact, the judges that have appeared on video with us told us some version of the following statement:
- Most defense attorneys due a huge disservice to their clients by not preparing them well before sentencing. If I don’t know anything about the person, I don’t have a full understanding, and without a full understanding, I cannot consider the entire person.
A person should not rely upon the defense attorney alone to make the case. Instead, the person should contemplate what he will say to satisfy the judge’s question:
- What has this person done to show me that he is different from every other defendant that comes before me?
Steps to a solid Sentencing Allocution Strategy:
Following lessons we offer in through all of our content, on any of our Internet platforms, before the sentencing day, we recommend that people consider:
- What is the best possible outcome from this sentencing hearing?
- What tools, tactics, and resources can I create that will advance prospects of getting the best possible outcome?
- What priorities should I put in place?
- In what ways can I execute on the plan?
- How can I hold myself accountable on this plan to get the best outcome?
People that have resources may want to hire an expert to guide them at every stage in the journey. For example, take a look at this series of videos with we did with defense attorney Diane Bass, of Orange County. She talks about how an effective mitigation strategy helped her secure a one-day sentence for a person charged with a fraud offense, with a $50-million loss.
If a person doesn’t have resources to hire a guide, then complete the research independelty, starting with a look at Federal Judicial Center’s website (www.fjc.gov).
- In what ways does the website profiling judicial guidance prepare you before allocution?
- Consider how prosecutors will use knowledge of the judicial system to argue for a more severe sentence.
- Lay out the tools, tactics, and resources you’ve developed to bolster your case before sentencing.
- The following article will show more about the process of a sentencing hearing:
When questioning the effectiveness of an allocution strategy, a person should consider:
- Does the presentation I’ve prepared reflect sincere remorse?
- Have I created a backup documentation to support my claims of remorse?
- In what ways does my allocution preparation show my understand of the loss that my crime has caused?
- How does my allocution reflect what I’ve learned from this process?
- What does my allocution show about my understanding of the victims in this case?
- In what ways have I anticipated what prosecutors would say?
- Have I offered a single sentence that a prosecutor could twist to suggest I am blaming others for my actions?
- Will my allocution differentiate me from other people that have appeared before the Court for sentencing?
- In what ways have I taken the time to help the judge get to know my life?
- Describe the strategy you’ve engineered to show that you’ve tried to make amends for the crime.
Final Thoughts on Allocution at Sentencing:
Between 1987 and 2013, I lived as federal prisoner number 16377-004. During that lengthy period of time, I interviewed more than 1,000 people about their sentencing experience. Without exception, people that got the best outcome described the extensive preparations they made before sentencing.
During the latter portion of my journey, I began writing books and lessons other people could use on their self-directed path to prepare a self-advocacy campaign. My partner, Justin Paperny, relied upon those writing to launch our consulting firm—which began when I was still in prison. Over longer than ten years, we’ve continued to gather more information from the various people with whom we’ve worked, including:
- Federal probation officers
- Federal judges
- U.S. Attorneys
- Defense attorneys
- People charged with federal crimes.
If getting the lowest possible sentence is important to you, we encourage you to learn everything possible, long before sentencing. Some final resources we make available include:
- Our 25-point self-assessment checklist
- Ten steps to take before surrendering to prison
You also may consider our earlier articles that we’ve published (though not always updated).
- Innocent Until Provide Guilty: September 23, 2016
- Federal Judges Speak About Sentencing: October 22, 2017
- Character Reference Letters and Their Influence at Sentencing: October 9, 2017