After a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, a judge will decide on the appropriate punishment during the sentencing phase of a criminal case. This is otherwise known as the sentence. Sentencing for criminal offenses can range from probation and community service to prison and even the death penalty.
Sentencing usually takes place almost immediately after convictions for minor infractions and misdemeanors, or when a defendant has pled guilty. In more complex criminal cases, such as those involving serious felonies, the sentencing judge usually receives input from the prosecutor, the defense, and the probation department (which prepares recommendations in a “pre-sentence report”).
A judge will consider several factors in determining a criminal sentence, including:
- Whether the offender has any criminal history;
- Whether the offender was the main offender or an accessory (someone who assists the main offender) or;
- Whether the offender was under great personal stress or duress when he or she committed the crime;
- Whether anyone was injured or the crime was particularly likely to result in injury;
- Whether the offender was particularly cruel to a victim, or particularly destructive, vindictive, etc.; and
- Whether the offender displayed remorse or regret.
Choice of Sentences
Judges in most cases have a great deal of discretion when determining a sentence and have several sentencing alternatives from which to choose, from diversion to incarceration. Not every conviction means a trip to prison and alternative sentences can include:
- Suspended sentences;
- Fines or restitution;
- Community service;
- Deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion; and
Additionally, there are many different types of sentences. Multiple sentences can be served concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one after another), and single sentences could be deferred or suspended based on certain conditions.
While judges do have many sentencing options, in some cases there are federal and state laws that provide for mandatory sentences. These laws require judges to impose identical sentences on all persons convicted of the same offense. Mandatory sentences reflect the efforts of state legislatures and Congress to address public concerns regarding judges’ leniency or inconsistency in criminal sentencing.
The most notable mandatory sentencing laws are the “Three Strikes” statutes, which provide for life in prison if a convicted felon has been convicted of a “serious violent felony” and has two or more previous convictions, one of which is another serious violent felony. While these laws have been criticized for being disproportionately harsh, most have been upheld as constitutional.
Each state has their own state sentencing guidelines, which cover mandatory minimum sentences and the use of parole and probation issues.
– See more at: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-procedure/criminal-sentencing.html#sthash.WXNzyIQg.dpuf
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.