Journal Entry: Saturday, April 27, 2024

Journal Entry

Sentencing Prep

How to Prepare Before Sentencing in Federal Court

Preparing for sentencing in a federal court is a crucial phase that demands strategic planning and thoughtful execution. If you want to know how to prepare, you should learn from many sources, including people who have gone through the process.

My name is Michael Santos. I went through the process, through every phase. In 1987, authorities arrested me. I went through all criminal justice proceedings in federal court. After a jury convicted me, a federal judge sentenced me to serve a lengthy sentence. While serving 26 years in federal prison, I learned a great deal from interviewing others. 

If other people face sentencing hearings, they can learn a great deal by reading about others who have gone through the journey.

First, if facing a sentencing hearing, learn what to expect.

Understanding the Sentencing Process:

Federal sentencing is the judicial process where a judge determines the penalty after a guilty plea or conviction. The outcome is influenced by various factors, including the nature of the offense, your criminal history, and the federal sentencing guidelines. Understanding these elements is vital in preparing your case for sentencing.

Scholars advise that there are four goals of sentencing, including:

  1. Deter other people from committing a crime.
  2. Isolate people who broke the law.
  3. Punish people who broke the law.
  4. Rehabilitate people who broke the law.

There isn’t a lot a person can do about deterrence, incapacitation, or punishment. The court will make those decisions. On the other hand, think about what steps you can take to advance yourself as a candidate for rehabilitation.

Key Steps in Preparing for Sentencing

  • Comprehend Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with the federal sentencing guidelines, which provide a framework for sentencing decisions. Understanding these guidelines is essential in predicting potential outcomes and preparing your case accordingly.
  • Work Closely with Your Attorney: Collaborate with your defense attorney to develop a comprehensive strategy. This includes reviewing the presentence investigation report, addressing any inaccuracies, and preparing for possible counterarguments.
  • Gather Supporting Documentation: Compile documents that support your case, such as character reference letters, evidence of rehabilitation, and records of any treatment or community service. These documents can significantly influence the judge’s perception of your character and your commitment to making amends.
  • Plan Your Statement: Prepare a statement for the court, expressing remorse, accepting responsibility, and sharing your plans for the future. A well-prepared statement can leave a lasting impact on the judge and potentially affect the sentencing outcome.
  • Consider Restitution and Cooperation: If your case involves financial crimes or damages, preparing to make restitution can positively impact your sentencing. Additionally, consider the benefits of cooperation with authorities, if applicable.
  • Understand the Impact of Your Background: Your personal history, including family, education, and mental and physical health, can play a role in sentencing. Be ready to present aspects of your background that might warrant a more lenient sentence.
  • Mental and Emotional Preparation: Sentencing can be a stressful experience. Prepare mentally and emotionally for various outcomes, and consider seeking support from counselors or support groups.


Preparing for federal sentencing requires a multifaceted approach, involving legal strategy, personal reflection, and psychological readiness. No one should work harder than you work to prepare for a better outcome at sentencing.

The steps you take in preparation can significantly influence your sentencing outcome. My experience has shown that those who are well-prepared, informed, and proactive in their approach can navigate this challenging phase more effectively. As you approach your sentencing date, remember the importance of thorough preparation, honest reflection, and strategic planning.