Modifying a Criminal Sentence

Even though you has been convicted and sent to jail or sentenced, it does not mean that the sentence is final. The court has the power to modify your sentence even if you have not filed appeal.

The exact rules for modifying a sentence vary from state to state. Generally in most states, a court can modify a sentence if:

  • There is      an error in the imposed sentence
  • You assist      the state/prosecution in another criminal case while in prison or while serving      the sentence

In certain circumstances, courts can also consider reducing the sentence based on your age.

When there is a clear error in the sentence, the court can modify the sentence. For example when the judge sentences you to 5 years in prison but in the written order the judge erroneously writes 8 years, the judge can correct the sentence. But this correction must be carried out within certain number of days. The exact number of days is determined by state law. The judge can correct the error on his own or when you or your lawyer brings it to his notice.

If after being sentenced, you provide significant assistance to the prosecution in another case, then your sentence can be modified (i.e. reduced) by the court. But for such modification the prosecution must make an application to the court seeking the modification. Generally the prosecution must make this application within a year of the judgment. But sometimes, the court will accept an application made after a year if:

  • You provide the prosecution some new information which you acquired after one year of the sentencing.
  • You provided information to the prosecution within one year of the sentencing but the information only became useful to the prosecution after one year
  • You had      the information but did not pass on the information to the prosecution      because you did not know that the information would be useful to the      prosecution, but on knowing the importance of the information, you      immediately passed on the information to the prosecution.

If you have been sentenced under Federal law and there are extraordinary and compelling grounds such as terminal illness, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons can file an application with the court seeking the modification of the sentence. If you are 70 years or older and have completed at least 30 years of a life sentence, then the Director of the Bureau of Prisons can also file such an application if the Director believes that you are no longer a threat to the public. The Director of the Bureau of Prisons or the Defendant can seek a modification of the sentence if the sentencing guidelines were changed while you are serving the sentence and under the new guidelines, you would be sentenced to a lower term.

If you are seeking to modify your sentence consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer can review the facts of the case and advise you on eligibility for modification of the sentence.



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