If you are arrested and charged with a crime in New York City, the best way to protect yourself effectively is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.
One of the issues in a New York criminal case which is crucial, is that of sentencing. Most people think of sentencing as something that only comes up after the trial is over and the defendant has been convicted. However, a comprehensive understanding of how sentencing works can prove essential even in the beginning stages of a criminal case.
An attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with sentencing issues can, for example, evaluate a prosecutor’s plea offer in relation to the sentencing risk that the defendant would run if the case were to go to trial. If the risk is high, then a deal may look better than it would if the sentencing exposure were relatively low.
There are some prosecutors who will try to tell a defendant that he is risking persistent felony sentencing if he rejects their offer. If you have been convicted previously, you may be intimidated by this threat into accepting a bad offer. However, in this as in other matters, things are often not as simple as they sound.
In reality, there are two types of persistent felony sentencing statutes: the persistent felony offender statute and the persistent violent felony offender statute. While both work to increase the minimum sentence while raising the maximum to life in prison, there are important differences between the two.
Generally, a defendant convicted of a violent felony offense or predatory sex offense and has two prior violent felonies for two separate convictions within a ten year period (not counting time spent incarcerated) is considered a persistent violent felony offender. If a court determines that a defendant is a PVFO, persistent violent felony offender sentencing becomes mandatory.
Thus, PVFO sentencing applies when the crimes are sequential, the sentence is mandatory if applicable, and there is a ten-year period within which the two prior violent felonies must have occurred.
Persistent felony offender sentencing differs from PVFO in several important ways. PFO sentencing does not require that the two prior felonies occur within a specified period. It does, however, require that the felonies be sequential and that the defendant served a state prison bid on at least two prior felony convictions.
Persistent felony offender sentencing, unlike PVFO, is within the discretion of the judge, and may be based on factors other than prior sentences.
For either of these two types of sentencing, an out-of-state felony conviction must be examined to see whether the underlying act is also a felony under New York law.
Thus, if the judge or prosecutor is threatening persistent sentencing, it is up to your attorney to review your records and the law and determine whether this is really possible.
The issue of persistent offender sentencing is only one of the myriad issues that can come up in a criminal case, often in unexpected ways. Only an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you navigate them and mount an effective defense. Call our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.