It’s Never Too Late..
“Is it too late now to say sorry?” If you’ve been accused of or charged with a crime, you may be wondering if displaying remorse for your actions will help you get a lighter sentence. In fact, it can.
Research studies have confirmed that a defendant’s failure to show remorse is one of the most powerful factors in criminal sentencing. Research from 2006 found that judges often enhanced the sentences of defendants they felt exhibited a lack of remorse in the courtroom.
What is Remorse?
Remorse is a “retractive” emotion as someone withdraws from an action or personality trait that belongs to them. The most common thoughts associated with this feeling are, “I wish I had not done that,” or “I wish my personality were different.”
Showing Remorse Appropriately
Of course, accurately evaluating remorse is tricky. And faking remorse or being overly dramatic with it can cause the judge and jury to think of the defendant as phony. So, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- If you choose to apologize, make it a heartfelt apology that’s short and sweet. Don’t be overly dramatic, as that will come off fake.
- Look the judge, jury, and/or victim in the eye when making your apology.
- Tie in an antidote that shows what you’ve learned or reflected on during your time of remorse.
- Never act like you’re “too cool to apologize,” or you simply don’t care about the consequences of your actions. As we mentioned above, if the judge feels you exhibited a lack of remorse, they will likely impose a harsher sentence.
- Be careful how you word your apology. Judges are more likely to think you are faking your remorse if you say, “sorry for what happened,” versus a statement in which you take accountability for your actions, such as, “I am sorry for what I did.”
You can also send the judge a letter explaining your remorseful feelings before your sentencing or trial starts. Some people find letters are more effective because they can write everything out ahead of time and not have to worry about being nervous and clamming up or the judge rushing them for time’s sake. Of course, you have to be careful because some judges may view a letter as a “cop” out and prefer an in-person apology.
Speak with your criminal defense attorney ahead of time, who may know the judge and what they’d prefer, or who can assess your situation and tell you whether a letter or in-person apology would be best. If you are apologizing directly to a victim or their family, you can also send a letter directly to them or their attorney.
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.