Sentencing Alternatives

Sentencing Alternatives Our Redwood City Criminal Attorney Discusses Sentencing Alternatives

A Redwood City criminal attorney can explain that a possible conviction can mean a variety of consequences. In some instances, a prison term is issued. In others, the defendant may be given a sentencing alternative.

Prison Sentences

Some courts issue determinate prison sentences. A Redwood City criminal lawyer can explain that a determinate sentence is one with a specific time frame, such as one year or six months. Other cases may warrant an indeterminate sentence, in which the prison sentence is not exact. For example, a defendant may receive a sentence of ten to fifteen years. These types of sentences usually arise because the legislature has set a minimum and a maximum time of incarceration. However, they leave the ultimate decision up to prison officials of when the defendant should be released from incarceration. Typically, an indeterminate sentence can only be imposed on a person who was sentenced to state prison after the conviction of a felony.

Suspended Sentence

In some instances, a judge may agree to suspend a sentence. This means that the defendant does not serve the jail or prison time imposed if he or she complies with the obligations established by the judge. For example, the judge may order probation and the defendant might need to follow the probation officer’s instructions or attend a drug treatment program. However, if the defendant violates a term of probation or other instruction mandated by the judge, the prosecutor or probation department might ask that the judge order the defendant to serve the original sentence. During a probation violation hearing, a defendant is not entitled to the same rights as he or she had during the initial trial. During such a hearing, the prosecution usually only has the burden of proof of establishing that the defendant violated a term of probation, even if the prosecution does not pursue separate charges for the underlying act that resulted in the probation violation.

Probation Conditions

A Redwood City criminal attorney can explain that each probation case is different, so a judge may order different conditions of probation in different cases. However, some of the more common conditions of probation include:

  • Obey all laws, including minor ones that may only result in a citation
  • Report on a regular basis to a probation officer
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs
  • Take periodic drug or alcohol tests
  • Follow all court orders, including paying fines or restitution
  • Avoid certain places and people
  • Report changes of information to the probation officer
  • Stay within the jurisdiction and only travel outside of it if granted permission by the probation officer

A Redwood City criminal attorney can explain that fines are a common type of punishment for crimes, especially those that are committed by first-time offenders and are not as serious. Fines are commonly imposed on the following types of infractions:

  • Traffic violations
  • Drunk driving by first-time offenders
  • Minor drug possession
  • Shoplifting
  • Fish and game violations

In some cases, only a fine is imposed. However, in many cases, a fine is imposed in addition to other punishments, such as jail time, community service or probation. Fines typically go to the local, state, or federal government. Restitution

Another type of monetary punishment is restitution. While fines go to the government, restitution goes to the victim or a fund for victims across the state. This helps to provide the victim with money for what he or she has lost of value. For example, restitution may be ordered when the defendant damaged or stole his or her property. In other cases, restitution may be ordered when the victim sustained physical injuries or died as a result of the defendant’s actions. In some criminal cases, the victim is not easily identifiable. For example, in a Medicare fraud scheme, the victim is the public. In other cases, the victim is easy to identify. If the defendant is ordered to pay restitution, he or she may face other consequences, including jail time or probation.

Community Service

A Redwood City criminal attorney can explain that, in some cases, a judge may impose community service. Community service is volunteer work that helps the defendant repay his or her debt to society. This may be the only consequence to criminal behavior, or it may be ordered in addition to other forms of punishment, such as restitution, probation, or a fine. Other Alternative Sentences

There are a variety of other types of sentences that may be imposed by the judge. For example, the judge may order a drunk driving defendant to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle that does not allow the vehicle to start unless the defendant’s breath does not register as being under the influence. Another possibility is for a defendant to meet with victims’ groups or to complete a rehabilitation program.


For some individuals, criminal cases can be diverted out of the criminal justice system through the process of diversion. Through this type of program, the defendant’s criminal charge is dropped after he or she successfully completes the program. This type of program is sometimes available for juveniles, first-time offenders, and other individuals who want to avoid the negative ramifications of a criminal conviction. Successful completion often involves a treatment or rehabilitation program. These types of programs are often limited to certain criminal charges, such as misdemeanors or non-violent felonies, such as drug or alcohol charges. A Redwood City criminal attorney may suggest diversion to a prosecutor before criminal charges are filed in order to avoid the defendant acquiring a criminal record.

Legal Assistance from a Redwood City Criminal Attorney

If you would like to learn about other sentencing alternatives or if you would like to learn about whether these alternatives may be available in your case, a Redwood City criminal lawyer may be able to help. Contact Silveira Law by calling (415) 795-3890.