Sentencing is typically the last step in a trial and comes either after a jury has delivered a guilty verdict or if the suspect facing charges pleads guilty. While the courts and judges have the final say, here are a few things that will give you an idea of what to expect at sentencing.
When the case involves a misdemeanor, the judge will most likely give a sentence immediately. If there is a possibility for a long and significant incarceration period, the judge may take several days or weeks to impose a sentence.
A probation officer typically prepares and submits a report for the judge to review before the sentencing hearing takes place.
What will the judge take into consideration?
As judges review the case and spend time deciding on what sentence to impose, they will often hear statements and testimony in open court. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, relatives of the victim, and defendants are the people who most commonly speak during a sentencing hearing.
There are laws in place that give both the defendant and defense counsel an opportunity to speak before the court before a sentence is given. The “right of allocution” specifically grants the defendant the right to speak on his or her own behalf in front of the judge. The defendant’s attorney will usually work with the defendant to prepare what they will say when they speak.
In most cases, the prosecution will review and highlight the most crucial factors of the crime as well as the convict’s previous criminal history. Defense attorneys will most likely respond with arguments justifying a lighter sentence.
How the victim of the crime is involved
At the time of the sentencing hearing, the victim can play a key role in the judge’s decision. They can use their opportunity to speak to let the judge know how the crime has impacted their lives. They will often point out any pain they have suffered or any other relevant details that would warrant a harsher sentence.
Victims may also provide an “impact statement” that is carefully prepared with the help of a counselor. These statements typically point out the physical, emotional, and/or financial effects of the crime.
The right defense matters
An experienced criminal defense attorney is aware and alert to the tactics and strategies involved during the sentencing process. Having the right defense attorney working for you will insure you get a fair sentence. Just because the trial is over or you’ve admitted guilt doesn’t mean you have any less need for an attorney. It’s important to continue to work with an attorney through the entire process.
Mesa Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Charlie Naegle has been involved in hundreds of trials including sentencing trials. He’s worked with convicts to help them get the best possible sentence so they can move on with their lives and get things back to where they were before the crime took place.