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Criminal sentences vary greatly depending on the case

One of the biggest concerns for people facing criminal charges what penalties they will have to deal with. These vary greatly from one case to another. As a defendant, one of the things that you have to do is to find out what is possible in your criminal case.

There are several things that you have to think about. First, incarceration isn't the only penalty. Second, there are some very specific things that you need to know about any sentence that is handed down. Here are a few things for you to keep in mind.

Alternative sentences

When incarceration isn't the sentence handed down, other sentences are possible. These include probation, pretrial diversion programs, community service and fines. In some cases, these might be combined with incarceration.

Probation means that you will have to report to an officer of the court who will monitor you to ensure that you comply with the requirements of the program. These usually include staying out of legal trouble, avoiding alcohol and staying employed. It can also come with travel restrictions and other rules like having to take regular drug tests.

Pretrial diversion programs help you to get your case over with before you have to go through a trial. Drug court is one example of a pretrial diversion program that you might be able to participate in.

Community service means that you have to work as a volunteer at an approved organization for a specific number of hours. Fines are monetary payments you make to the court as a punishment for the crime.


Incarceration means that you spend time in jail or prison. Typically, short stents of incarceration are served in a local jail, but longer stents are served in prison. Often, misdemeanor convictions come with time in jail but felony convictions come with time in prison.

The length of time you spend behind bars depends on the court's ruling. Some convictions come with a mandatory minimum sentence, which means that you will have to serve at least that length of time. Many sentences are parole eligible, which means that you might be able to get out of prison after a certain time by entering a parole program.

The amount of time you are incarcerated can also depend on how the judge issues the sentence. When more than one charge is present, the court can rule that you serve the time consecutively or concurrently. Consecutive sentences run one after the other. Concurrent sentences run at the same time.

A person who is sentenced to serve a 10-year sentence for crime A and a 10-year sentence for crime B would serve 20 years if the judge says they must be served consecutively. If the judge in this case says concurrently, the person would only serve 10 years total.

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