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Sentencing Alternatives

Our Albuquerque Criminal Attorney Discusses Sentencing Alternatives: Prison, Probation, Fines, and Community Servicehands on prison bars Albuquerque Criminal Attorney

The following provides a general outline of common sentencing procedures, an experienced Albuquerque criminal attorney can help you understand how they apply to your specific case and help you work toward the best possible outcome.


Judges have discretion in sentencing, but their discretion is not unlimited. Many crimes have minimum and maximum sentences which the judge cannot deviate from. In felony cases, a judge will also be guided by the sentencing score which takes into account any prior convictions as well as mitigating or aggravating factors. Where there is a plea agreement between the prosecutor and the defense, the agreement must still be approved by the judge. An Albuquerque criminal attorney can provide information specific to your case and circumstance.

Sentences may be straight time or include the opportunity to serve part of the sentence on parole. Parole may be may be part of the original sentence or discretionary and granted by the parole board. A parolee serves the parole portion of the sentence in the community, subject to restrictions and monitoring. In the event of a violation, the parolee will be returned to prison to serve the remainder of the original sentence.


Probation may be used a stand-alone sentence without any associated jail time or may be combine with a jail sentence. The aim of probation is to monitor behavior and compliance with court orders, assist with community reintegration, and provide assistance with issues related to the offense, such as drug counseling. A probationer will be assigned a probation officer and will also be given a set of probation conditions. Some conditions are standard, while others are specific to the probationer and specific to the offense such as completing anger management or attending a victim impact panel. A violation of probation, even a seemingly small one, can result in a revocation of probation and the imposition of jail time or extended probation with additional conditions. Probation violations can be serious, but an experienced Albuquerque criminal attorney can help you.

Fines and Fees

Most sentences include a financial component to include payment of fines, court costs, and restitution. Fines are usually set by statute and include a maximum and minimum amount to be determined by the judge. In some cases, the Court may have authority to waive fines, but costs are usually mandatory. Payment of fines and fees is usually a condition of probation, if there is no probation, the judge will normally set a deadline for payment. Non-payment of the financial obligations imposed at sentencing can result in revocation of probation or an arrest warrant to come before the Court and explain why they remain unpaid.

In some cases the Court may allow financial obligations, other than restitution, to be paid by performance of community service. Payment via community service is in additional to any community service otherwise ordered.


Restitution payments may be ordered to anyone who was financially “injured” by the charged criminal conduct and is intended to reimburse crime victims for direct financial loses. Restitution may include the cost to repair or replace damaged property, payment of medical bills, or costs associated with burial in the event of a death. Restitution can be resolved as part of a negotiated plea or may be subject to a restitution hearing. Payment of restitution in a criminal case does not prevent victims from seeking additional recovery in a civil suit; if your case resulted in high damages, you should discuss this issue with an Albuquerque criminal attorney.

Community Service

As part of sentencing the Court may order the defendant to work within the community as part of a community service program. The Court may specify the type of work to be done or may defer to the probation department to find an appropriate placement. Failure to complete all of the ordered community service hours may result in a probation violation.

Deferred Sentence

In limited cases, a deferred sentence may be available to first-time offenders. A deferred sentence requires entry of a guilty plea and imposition of a sentence to include jail time. The defendant is then placed on probation and the jail portion of the sentence is deferred or suspended. After successfully completing all of the terms and conditions of probation, which may include payments of fines, successful completion of classes, and community service, the Court will dismiss the case. In the event of a probation violation, the Court may immediately revoke probation and impose the suspended jail sentence. Despite dismissal, certain types of charges can still be counted as first offenses if you are arrested again in the future. You will want to discuss whether you might qualify for deferment, as well as possible benefits and drawbacks, with an experienced Albuquerque criminal attorney.


Diversion is offered to some first-time offenders who are charged with minor offenses. Diversion is usually offered at or before arraignment and does not require the defendant to first plead guilty. Participants must complete requirements related to the charged offense within the designated time frame, these requirements may include payment of fines, community service, or participation in counseling. Once all requirements are successfully completed, the case is dropped. In the event the requirements are not fulfilled within the designated time frame, the defendant is referred back to the regular court system for trial. Contact an Albuquerque criminal attorney to see if you may qualify for diversion.

Contact an Albuquerque Criminal Attorney

For more help with your case and understanding potential sentences, contact our Albuquerque criminal attorney. from Twohig Law Firm at (505) 898-0400 for a free consultation today!

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