How to Petition for a Modification of Sentence in California

By Mark Nero
California Superior Court has the power to modify sentences.

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Under the provisions of the California state penal code, courts have the authority to modify sentences for criminal convictions. If you want to petition the court to modify your sentence and have a valid reason for why it should happen, you can submit a letter to the court with your request then appear before a Superior Court judge during a hearing to explain the circumstances and plead your case for a modification.

Write a letter explaining your modification request to the Superior Court that convicted you. Your letter must include your full name and address, case number, charge you were convicted of, the name of the sentencing judge and the reason for the request. If you were convicted in Orange County, you can download Form 364 from the county public defender's website and fill it out. A link to the document is included in the Resources section on this page.

Submit the form with the Superior Court branch you were convicted in. If sending by mail, address the envelope to the court clerk, since the clerk processes modification requests and forwards them to the handling judge. Or, if submitting the petition in person, report to the court clerk's office and hand over your letter. Include any supporting documents that could aid your modification request.

Appear before the court to explain why you believe your sentence should be modified. After you submit your request, you should receive a letter from the court within several weeks informing you of a scheduled hearing. Go to the hearing and present your case to the judge. Explain exactly why you submitted the request and why you're deserving of a modification.

Abide by the judge's ruling. Depending on the circumstances and how complex the situation is, the judge could either issue a ruling at the time of the hearing or take more time to study the evidence. When the judge issues the ruling, abide by the parameters, whether the decision is in your favor or not.

About the Author

Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.

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