Judges overturn "grossly disproportionate" sentencing outcome

You've been called to task.

Impliedly, that was what a recent judicial ruling from an appellate panel was just as much about as was its actual determination resulting in the reversal of a sentence imposed earlier on a criminal defendant by a trial-court judge.

What that judge did was this: He sentenced a homeless man to 12 years in prison for stealing $44 from a vending machine on a college campus.

That's right: 176 quarters pilfered, responded to by an incarceration term of 144 months.

We submit that such a judicial response is flatly misaligned and lacking from any ethical standpoint.

The appellate panel certainly agreed with that assessment. One judge called the sentencing outcome "grossly disproportionate." Another termed it "undeniably harsh."

The sentencing judge told the defendant at a hearing that "maybe my twelve-year sentence will make an impression on you."

Unquestionably, it did on the appellate panel, with the judge writing the tribunal's opinion calling it a "paltry crime" responded to by an incongruous and draconian response.

The panel noted a lack of violence linked with the crime and the tandem lack of a weapon wielded by the defendant. Moreover, the homeless individual's prior criminal record involved mostly petty thievery, without a single incident of violent behavior having ever been reported.

Resentencing resulted in an adjustment reflecting the statutory minimum sentence for such an offense.

Sentencing abnormalities often receive significant public scrutiny, as they well should in order to spotlight aberrational outcomes and to focus dialogue on fundamental fairness and rationality in the criminal law system.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will always be acutely focused upon the essentials of a criminal charge and the potential sentencing outcomes linked with it. Proven legal counsel will advocate diligently for a best-case result that fully mitigates the downsides for a defendant and optimally promotes his or her best interests.

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