08 September 2012
When a defendant is being sentenced for a crime committed, he or she has the right of allocution. The right of allocution is the opportunity for the defendant to speak to the judge to give his or her side of the story, to request leniency, to say he or she will never do it again, etc. This is a statutory right; it is deemed important. It just doesn't seem right to punish a person without giving the person the chance to say a few words or explain him or herself. Of course, as with many things in life, it works in opposite fashion from the intention. As late as this week when the judge asks the defendant if he has anything further to say, I whisper to him "no" and finally he shuts up before the judge does decide to send him to jail. Defendants with very few exceptions do not think before they speak nor would they ever ask their legal counsel what they should or should not say. The latter is the more important: "what not to say". Invariably the more a defendant says the more likely he or she will go to jail. Do not tell the judge you want to "Get my life back together" or "Get on the right track" or "I've learned my lesson" or "I need treatment" or "I won't do it again". The judge has heard each of these statements a zillion times and they signify nothing. Instead tell the judge, if possible, that you are working, that you actually have a place to live other than with your parents or fiancee, that you are supporting your children if any, or that you actually have given some thought to the circumstances that brought you before the judge in the first place, if it is the first place even though normally it is not the first place but the umpteenth place. In other words when the judge asks you if you have anything to say respond by saying no and let your attorney do the talking.