Who is Utah Sentencing Alternatives?

Utah Sentencing Alternatives assists criminal defendants, their families, and attorneys in state or federal court.   USA was founded in 2009 by Kim Harward.  With a degree in psychology and more than two decades of public service, including 16 years with the Utah Department of Corrections as a probation/parole officer and staff supervisor, Kim is an exceptionally well qualified and professional sentencing consultant whose results speak for themselves.

USA does not provide legal advice.  We are not attorneys.  USA does not provide treatment or diagnose mental illness.  We are not therapists.  If appropriate and necessary, we may refer clients to licensed service providers for further evaluation.

USA may conduct an initial assessment, particularly when substance abuse is a factor, but only to the extent authorized by statute.  Our sentencing consultants are experts in probation & parole, law enforcement methods & tactics, and we are creative problem-solvers specializing in human behavior and personal development.

What is a Sentencing Consultant and what does a Sentencing Consultant do?

Your USA sentencing consultant will research, develop and implement strategies to minimize incarceration and other sentencing sanctions.  We will portray you as a individual human being and not simply as another criminal defendant.  Using principles of evidence-based practices (EBP) we promote individualized sentencing by providing alternative solutions.

Sentencing consultants provide information for judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to balance the competing concerns for justice.  Concerns that require everyone involved to consider public safety needs, rehabilitative options, and likelihood of recidivism.  Sentencing consultants provide context to violations of the law in a manner consistently results in reasonable and rational sentences.

I already have an attorney, why do I need a Sentencing Consultant?

Sentencing consultants “level the playing field” and contribute to a complete and vigorous defense team.  In plea negotiations and sentencing, the 2nd opinion offered by your sentencing consultant can significantly alter the outcome your case.

Engaging the services of a sentencing consultant is a proactive defense strategy that allows your defense attorney to focus on the legal aspects of the case while we focus on you and the human aspects.

A well-qualified sentencing consultant, like those found at Utah Sentencing Alternatives, integrates your personal information with scientific research and other relevant information to present reasonable recommendations for sentencing.

Distinguish yourself from other criminal defendants.  First impressions are critical.  Unless you go to trial, the judge has very little information about the case and they rely tremendously on the information provided in the government prepared presentence report.  Your USA sentencing consultant will help prepare for the interview with a probation officer.

Context – judges often have only pieces or snippets of information, like dots on a page the picture is incomplete.  A good sentencing consultant will connect the dots and add perspective for the judge and correctional authorities.

How is Utah Sentencing Alternatives different from others who offer “private presentence reports”?

Utah Sentencing Alternatives does not provide “private probation” services or substance abuse treatment.   Although we do offer a variety of post-sentencing services, participation in those programs is strictly voluntary and independent of any court imposed sanctions.  As a result, we maintain an objective basis that is not tainted by a conflict of interest or financial incentive.

In many states, including Utah, “private presentence reports” prepared by private probation and substance abuse treatment providers are used to recommend services that are in turn provided by the organization that completed the report.   We are sensitive to this potential conflict of interest and made the conscious business decision not to receive financial compensation for referrals to third party service providers.

Is this a new service?  How come I have never heard of a Sentencing Consultant before?

No, sentencing consultants have been used in state and federal courts for at least fifty years.   Their services have most commonly been used in federal court proceedings but they are also valuable assets in state court proceedings.

Is hiring a Sentencing Consultant worth it?

There are few real guarantees in life.  It is possible that your attorney is all that is needed.  Including a sentence consultant as a member of your defense team will nearly guarantee (as close as possible) that you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

If you were diagnosed with debilitating illness that could incapacitate you for months or years and leave you without the ability to provide for your family or see your children, would you question the value of a vaccine?

Does Utah Sentencing Alternatives handle federal criminal cases?

Yes, your USA sentencing consultant will investigate and analyze all available mitigating factors by focusing on individual characteristics instead of offense levels and categories.  The United State Supreme Court, in a ruling released on January 12, 2005, ruled the Sentencing Guidelines are merely advisory and not mandatory.   Then in 2009 the United States Supreme Court issued its per curiam decision in Porter v. McCollum which identified a defendant’s constitutional right and defense counsel’s constitutional obligation to investigate mitigating factors & circumstances in advance of sentencing.

{W}e are persuaded that it was objectively unreasonable to conclude there was no reasonable probability the sentence would have been different if the sentencing judge and jury had heard the significant mitigation evidence that Porter’s  counsel neither uncovered nor presented.

Our Nation has a long tradition of according leniency to veterans in recognition of their service, especially for those who fought on the front lines as Porter did.

PORTER v. MCCOLLUM, United States Supreme Court – November 30, 2009

What are some common mistakes people make pending sentencing?

The two most common mistakes made by people facing criminal charges are not changing behaviors that put them at risk for criminal charges and not making changes that enhance or increase protective measures.

In each instance, these defendants relinquish control of their lives and hope for the best possible outcome.  In a very real sense they “hope” to win the lottery without even buying a lottery ticket.

I was convicted (or pled guilty) and have to go to probation for a presentence report, why do I also need a sentencing consultant?

It is common for the court to order the government to prepare a presentence report.  These reports are usually prepared by probation officers who work for the court, the state, or the federal government.  Probation officers are often cross trained as police officers and work for the same agencies that operate jails and prisons.

The presentence report will contain most of the information the judge will rely upon in determining what sentence to impose.  In general, presentence reports include personal background details, offense summary, criminal history, and a recommendation.

In theory at least, probation officers are independent, objective, and unbiased.  In practice, however, they are agents of the prosecution.  Engaging the services of a qualified sentencing consultant will help balance the scales of justice.

Will the judge read and consider information submitted by Utah Sentencing Alternatives?

Yes, judges in state and federal court are required to consider all relevant information submitted in conjunction with sentencing, including information provided by a sentencing consultant.  These requirements are laid out in statute, judicial rule, and case precedents.

When should I contact Utah Sentencing Alternatives?

If you have been arrested, indicted, or otherwise charged with a crime in either state or federal court then you should consider contacting USA.

If you are considering a guilty plea or if you have entered a guilty plea in either state or federal court then you should contact USA as soon as possible.

If you have already received the presentence report prepared by probation and it is inaccurate or incomplete, do not hesitate to contact USA immediately.

What should I do if the presentence report prepared by probation is inaccurate or incomplete?

Review the report with your attorney and develop a strategy for correcting the inaccurate information.  Incomplete information is more problematic and difficult to present to the court at the time of sentencing.

The accuracy of the information relied upon at sentencing extends well beyond the sentencing itself since it is used by correctional authorities in determining what (if any) programs are available, prison classification and housing assignments, and parole eligibility.  All of which are compelling reasons to employ the services of a sentencing consultant.

I am a criminal defense attorney, what are the benefits to my law practice for regularly and consistently working with Utah Sentencing Alternatives?

As a partner in a vigorous criminal defense team, Utah Sentencing Alternatives will help achieve the best possible outcome in each case.  We will enhance your client communications which allows you to focus more time and energy on the legal aspects of the case.

Collaterally, regularly including the services of a sentencing consultant could reduce the number of disgruntled clients and bar complaints.  It will enhance your reputation with potential clients and increase the number of referrals from past clients.

In short, by partnering with Utah Sentencing Alternatives you will have more time to practice law and more money as a result of it.