How Public Opinion Can Affect Criminal Court Proceedings
In recent years, there has been growing public outcry over California courts handing down lenient sentences for domestic violence crimes. From the protests that stemmed from the March 2016 sentencing of Brock Turner, the Stanford student who was thought to have “gotten off easy” for sexual assault to the recent proposed sentencing of a Silicon Valley tech exec Abhishek Gattani who got a plea bargain for 15 days in jail for repeatedly beating his wife, groups across the State of California and the nation are furious at the leniency with which courts are sentencing men for crimes against women. These cases often end up in the media and stir heated debate over how the criminal courts should punish domestic violence and sexual assault offenders. Unfortunately, many people don't thoroughly understand how the criminal justice system in California works or even how judges sentence defendants. Thus, when someone walks away with a seemingly lenient sentence for a DV offense, it leaves many feeling like there is no justice.
For defendants facing domestic violence charges, such public sentiments can be troublesome. When put under pressure from the media and the public at large to impose harsher penalties for domestic violence offenses, the courts could work to dissuade some opponents by handing down harsher sentences. It's too soon to tell whether cases like Turner's and Gattani's are having a tangible influence on domestic violence sentencing in California specifically, but it's safe to say they could affect sentencing for years to come or even prompt legislative changes. Such changes won't be a result of a few isolated incidents, though.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, it's natural to worry that these recent events could have an affect on how the judge sentences you. And, when facing such serious charges, even the slightest influence could make a huge difference in your life. Domestic violence offenses typically have minimum sentences and maximum sentences, like many crimes. How the judges choose a sentence between the minimum and the maximum depends on many factors including the defendant's prior criminal history, the nature and severity of the offense, and the injuries the victim sustained.
Much of the outcry over these lenient DV sentences focuses on privilege, class, and race as contributing factors. Many claim that money and class can buy you a lenient sentence, even for domestic violence offenses. And the media has supported this argument. But it's important to remember sentencing is not a science. While there are certain guidelines for sentencing domestic violence defendants, there is also room for discretion as well. The court is supposed to sentence a defendant fairly in a way that aligns with the interests of justice. The problem is many people disagree with the decisions the court makes, whether or not they understand what truly is in the best interest of justice. Thus, you should speak with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney if you are facing domestic violence charges. A domestic violence defense attorney in your area will be able to provide the best advice on how the court might sentence you for your offense and exactly what factors will matter the most. Once you know these things, you can build a strategic defense to your charges.
Along those same lines, many people claim minorities are arrested for domestic violence offenses more than non-minorities. Factors other than race can influence action taken by law enforcement. But the important thing to remember is not everyone arrested is guilty of a crime. Being arrested is just step one in the criminal prosecution process. Many people are arrested and never even charged with a crime, and many are charged but never convicted. Therefore, if you have been arrested, you should contact an attorney. It's up to you to defend your rights, so make sure you give yourself every chance you deserve to obtain a favorable outcome in your case.
If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and are facing domestic violence charges, call experienced domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you fight your charges and defend your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.