There is no doubt about it, raising a child—whether as a couple, a single parent, or a parent with very limited help—is a lot of work and can be difficult in the best of circumstances, let alone if you are facing criminal charges. Criminal charges can have far reaching consequences on many fronts, including whether or not you will be sentenced to a period of incarceration. We have many clients who state “but I can’t go to jail! What about my kids?” This is a real problem that many people face. A period of incarceration, no matter how brief, can be expensive, and in some cases, effect whether or not an individual will be able to maintain custody of their children.
It might be hard to hear, but having part of sole responsibility for raising your child is not something that will prevent you from being sentenced to jail or prison. The argument that you can’t afford it, or there is no one to watch your child/children, does not negate the fact that you committed a crime, and will be sentenced for it.
Be Realistic & Know Your Options
When a person is sentenced it is based on a several factors, and a judge can take your domestic or family situation into consideration when you are sentenced. There are a few different possible outcomes other than incarceration, however those depend on your criminal history, what charges you are being sentenced on, and case specific facts.
The first thing we will consider is the charges that you are currently facing, which correlates to the sentence you are likely to receive. For a minor charge, such as a low level misdemeanor, you may be able to avoid jail time. Being charged with a mid-to-high level felony, however, means you may be sentenced to prison time, and generally speaking it means you are less likely to receive a sentence that does not involve incarceration. Some charges carry a mandatory minimum. For example a five-year mandatory minimum would mean that a judge cannot sentence you to anything less than five years in prison. Obviously, if you are facing a severe charge, or a charge with a mandatory minimum, we need to be realistic in our expectations.
The next thing we can consider is your criminal history. An individual who has a clean record, or minimal criminal history, who is charged with a more serious crime may be able to minimize or even avoid incarceration altogether. This is in no way a guarantee, but it is part of a set of facts that can be used to your advantage in negotiations with the prosecutor and argued in your favor during your sentencing. One of the last things to consider is what your situation is overall. An individual who is a stay at home parent is in a different situation than a single parent. The availability of family and friends to help take care of the child/children is another factor that can be considered.
Making An Argument
A defense attorney can base part of their argument at sentencing on these factors. For lower level offenses, and offenses committed by first time offenders, detailing the situation can help to persuade a judge to be more lenient or consider other options aside from incarceration. What are the other options that a judge can sentence you to? Probation, GPS monitoring, Huber, amongst other things are possibilities. GPS monitoring or Huber both can take place during a jail sentence. Huber can allow you to have hours allotted for child care during the day, and thus you would be released for certain periods to help care for your child/children, but would have to return at specific times. GPS monitoring is essentially house arrest: you would be unable to leave your home expect for work, picking children up from school, pre-scheduled appointments, etc.
When everything is said and done, having children is not a valid reason to prevent someone from being incarcerated on criminal charges. When a situation like this does occur, however, it can sometimes be the deciding factor if a judge is on the fence. If you or someone that you know are currently facing criminal charges in Madison, Dane County, or elsewhere in Wisconsin, call our office for a free consolation.