Remember, it is not advisable to speak in Court and what you say can be used against you, but if you are already found, or plead guilty and want to take the risk of a higher sentence to get lower sentence make sure you focus on:
1) How you developed the problem (drinking, gambling, anger… whatever the Court thinks your problem is).
2) Taking responsibility for what happened that immediately landed you in Court. Certainly, being contrite is part of taking responsibility.
3) What your plan for improvement is.
4) Keep it short and above all.
5) If you must say something in Court it must be true – it would be much better saying nothing than it would be to tell the Court something misleading.
So, you plead guilty, or you finished your trial and the Court found you guilty. You are probably not reading this from the Courtroom, so I am assuming that you are preparing for the worst. Remember there is a good rule to go by in Court: do not lie, fib, exaggerate, or do anything but be plain and honest. The reason, other than good ethics, is that if the Court does somehow figure out that you were misleading it, the Court could make your sentence worse, and in extreme cases, you could receive a separate criminal charge for perjury or criminal contempt. Nobody wants to see that! So, remember, fewer words are better. That said, what you focus on in the sentencing hearing varies depending on what you are charged with.
Certainly, one of the basic things the Court is looking for is contrition: the act of feeling remorseful and apologetic. As part of the recipe for what the Court is looking for, Contrition is high on the list.
How You Will Fix You
One of the major trends in Michigan, and across the United States, is to focus on rehabilitation (the idea that you won’t break any more laws or that you will stay away from “substance abuse” in the future). So, if you were picked up for a drug-related violation, or an alcohol-related violation, enrolling in, actually attending, and telling the Court about attending a substance abuse program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous is a good idea.
You can enroll in other substance, or anger, rehab programs, either at an inpatient facility (where you stay overnight for a while) or have regular meetings with a counselor. The key is to attend as often as the program, and your bank account will allow. This will show the Court that you are making an effort to fix the problem the Court thinks landed you in jail and has been known to make the Court more sympathetic to your cause.
This advice applies to someone accused of domestic violence, assault/battery, and theft crimes, too. In those other cases, I would advise seeking therapy, “anonymous” meetings, or counseling that has a connection with your charge; i.e. some kind of anger management classes or meetings for crimes involving abuse or violence. I, obviously, cannot look into a crystal ball and tell you what will help and what will not, but I can tell you what has helped in my experience and what might help your odds, as well.
Sometimes telling the Court your story of how you landed in your current situation can be helpful. If you want to make such a statement, let the Court know you “prepared a few remarks and won’t take much of the Court’s time.” Then tell how you got there and what your plan for fixing the problem that landed you there is. It would help if you said something that lets the Court know it can rely on you, so say something like “despite the circumstances of how I got here, I take full responsibility for my actions and want to change.” I am not telling you what to say, but only giving an example. Remember, do not say anything that isn’t true. This does often backfire and leads to an uglier jail sentence.
Keep it short. You should rehearse this and KEEP IT SHORT. I mean really short. Keep it as close to one minute as you can.