Informed Misdemeanor Sentencing

Jenny Roberts, 46 Hofstra Law Review 177

(March 2018)
Informed Misdemeanor Sentencing article cover image

This article’s goal is two-fold: First, it contextualizes judicial responsibility for misdemeanor sentencing in the realities of the lower criminal courts, where a number of structural and systemic barriers — including violations of the right to counsel and pressures on judges to move cases along rapidly — affect but do not excuse the way judges go about sentencing.

Second, the Article calls for judges to undertake “informed misdemeanor sentencing,” which draws on principles of proportionality and parsimony in determining the just sentence in a misdemeanor case. Accordingly, judges should explicitly acknowledge the many serious collateral consequences an individual suffers after any penal sanction, and incorporate those into the sentencing process to ensure that punishment is proportionate. In addition, judges should bring parsimony into the sentencing process by making more use of deferred adjudication as well as expungement and related mechanisms for mitigating the unintended effects of a misdemeanor conviction.