Sentencing is a critical stage of a criminal case. Every defendant is given an opportunity to speak at the time of sentence for a Michigan criminal case. At every sentencing, the attorney for the defendant is afforded an opportunity to speak on behalf of his or her client. This allows the attorney to summarize the positive aspects of the client and make suggestions regarding a client’s unique circumstances and background. The Judge will also ask the defendant if he or she has anything to say. I am shocked at the number of people that have nothing to say at this critical stage.
We understand that a client is anxious, and sometimes afraid, at the time of his or her Michigan criminal sentence proceeding. It is the attorney’s duty to prepare a client for this critical stage of his or her case.We work with our clients to assist them with a statement which is appropriate to his or her case and can be read at the time of sentencing. At the very least, it will show the Judge that our client is remorseful and has a good attitude. We know that a few words can make an impression on the court. We also may submit character letters or a sentencing memorandum to the court before sentencing.
Here is what we might have a client say at the time of sentencing for a Michigan drunk driving case:
“Your Honor, This has been the worst experience of my life. I am sorry to my family and the Court. I am most sorry to the person(s) that I have injured by my conduct. I will do everything that I can to avoid getting in trouble again. I have quit drinking and now go to counseling and AA meetings. I have learned a lot from my counselor and am following the 12 Step Recovery Program. I have an AA sponsor. I hope that the court will grant probation so that I can continue my counseling, AA meetings, remain working and going to school. I will abide by every term of probation 100%. Thank you for this opportunity to speak.”
We also instruct our clients regarding courtroom demeanor and attire. In an extreme case, I represented a client for drug charge in Macomb County who was wearing a white leather jacket which had $$$ signs embroidered in green. I had him remove the jacket before setting foot in the courtroom.
We also recognize that there are situations where it is not appropriate for a client to speak at sentencing. When a client pleads no contest because of possible civil liability or lack of memory, an attorney may advise his client to decline speaking at the time of sentencing since a transcript may be used as a basis for liability in future civil proceedings.