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Which is Fairer: A Determinate Sentence or an Indeterminate Sentence?

There are many types of sentencing a person can face when convicted of a crime in California. Some states have what is known as determinate sentencing, while others have indeterminate sentencing. Learn what each of these means and which category California falls into. If you have been charged with a crime, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 to request a free legal consultation.

The Difference Between Determinate Sentencing and Indeterminate Sentencing

A determinate sentence is one that refers to a specific number of years. For example, if a person is sentenced to 25 years in prison. An indeterminate sentence is one in which a person is sentenced to a less specific number, such as 25 years to life in prison.

There Are Pros and Cons of Both Options

The fact that some states have determinate sentencing and others have indeterminate sentencing is evidence that there is no consensus on which one is better. Some say that a determinate sentence is fairer because the statutes call for the same number of years for the same crime, regardless of who the person is.

They also say that this is an efficient process that allows judges to easily sentence people, and that prevents parole boards from having to hear cases every year. Finally, some believe that determinate sentences can reduce crime because a person will know how much time they would get for a specific crime.

On the other hand, determinate sentencing results in more people imprisoned because parole boards are not able to grant early release. Determinate sentencing is also less flexible and puts less value on an incarcerated individuals reforming themselves in prison since they do not get fewer years for good behavior.

Where Does California Fall?

It is labeled as a determinate sentencing state, but it is not quite that simple. Most offenders are sentenced under the Determinate Sentencing Law (DSL), but some are sentenced under Indeterminate Sentencing Laws (ISL). If the case is a felony, a judge has three options to choose from: the minimum sentence, the maximum sentence, or a middle term.

When the judge determines which to impose, they will consider factors like whether or not there was violence in the crime, if the defendant used a firearm and the vulnerability of the victim. While the judge has three sentencing options to choose from, this is still considered determinate sentencing because once the defendant is sentenced, they are sentenced for a specific number of years.

Do you have questions about this or other aspects of the criminal justice system? Are you facing criminal charges? If so, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.