Facing a felony charge for the first time can be daunting. It’s important to know what to expect. Many people who meet with a criminal defense attorney regarding felony charges want to know if they are likely to go to jail for a first time felony offense.
Do first time felony offenders go to jail?
Some first time felony offenders go to jail. However, it’s possible for a person to receive a sentence for a felony conviction without a period of incarceration. Whether a person goes to jail for a first time felony offense depends on a number of factors including the severity of the charges and whether the offender has a criminal history. Generally, judges have discretion within a range of possible sentences in order to determine an appropriate amount of jail time.
What determines how much jail time for a first time felony offender?
Here are some factors that may determine how much jail time for a first time felony offender:
- Does the offender have a criminal history? How many felony offenses and how many misdemeanor offenses does the person have?
- What harm occurred to the victim?
- Has the defendant started any kind of treatment or corrective action plan?
- Is the defendant remorseful for their actions?
- What input does the victim have about an appropriate sentence?
- What are the defendant’s strengths? How do they contribute to society?
- Was the defendant a leader among multiple offenders?
- Did the defendant’s actions threaten public safety?
- Are there alternatives to incarceration like treatment and community service that allow the defendant to pay their debt to society?
- Was a weapon involved in the offense? Did the offender take advantage of a vulnerable person?
The judge considers any and all of these factors when they determine an appropriate sentence.
Pennsylvania felony sentencing guidelines
Courts in Pennsylvania use sentencing guidelines to determine reasonable jail time for felony offenses. The guidelines use weighting factors relating to the criminal history of the offender as well as the specifics of the events. There are a few offenses with mandatory minimum jail time, but mandatory minimum sentences are uncommon in Pennsylvania.
The judge uses the guidelines in order to determine a recommended range for the sentence. Although it’s not mandatory for the judge to sentence within the range that the guidelines produce, most judges choose to fashion a period of incarceration that falls within that range. If you want to ask the judge to sentence you to a shorter period of incarceration, you must be prepared to show the judge why it is appropriate to depart from the guidelines.
Fighting jail as a first time felony offender
A criminal defense attorney can help you fight back against jail time as a first time felony offender. How you respond to the charges may help you determine whether or not you go to jail and how long you serve. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you create a plan to address charges you’re facing with a strong defense.