What to Expect During Sentencing
Aug. 28, 2023
Sentencing is often considered the lesser-known part of the criminal justice process. However, your sentencing hearing carries significant weight for your freedom and future as a whole. For this reason, it is important to understand what to expect during sentencing and what happens at all stages of the criminal justice process when facing charges.
Do not wait until your case proceeds to arraignment, trial, or sentencing to contact an attorney. The sooner you retain legal counsel, the better you will be protected throughout your case and the more likely you are to achieve a positive outcome. As a criminal defense attorney at DaytonaDefense.com, I represent individuals accused of crimes from the moment charges are filed until the case is resolved. My law office is based in Daytona Beach, Florida, but I also serve Flagler County, Port Orange, Palm Coast, Volusia County, DeLand, and New Smyrna Beach.
When Does Sentencing Occur?
During sentencing, the judge declares the punishment decided for the defendant accused of criminal charges. The sentencing hearing typically occurs after any of the following:
The defendant pleads guilty; or
The defendant is found guilty in a trial.
During the hearing, the judge determines the appropriate punishment for the individual who has just been convicted of a crime. The appropriate sentence is based on the respective state’s sentencing guidelines.
If you are facing criminal charges, consider hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney before your case proceeds to the sentencing phase because, at this point, there is very little you can do to alter the outcome. Your attorney will walk you through every step of the criminal justice process to ensure that your rights are protected and, if possible, to help you avoid a conviction and sentencing altogether.
Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI)
Before you understand what to expect during sentencing, you need to know what the pre-sentence investigation (PSI) is. The PSI, which is ordered by the judge, is meant to postpone sentencing and give a probation officer a chance to investigate the defendant’s background and provide a sentencing recommendation to the judge.
Many things are considered during the pre-sentence investigation, including but not limited to:
The cause of the crime
The circumstances and severity of the crime
The defendant’s prior criminal history
The background information about the defendant’s employment, education, health, and family
The defendant’s future plans and goals in life and career
The defendant, as well as the defendant’s family and friends, witnesses in the criminal case, and the defense attorney may be questioned to make a sentencing recommendation as part of the PSI in Florida.
What Happens During Sentencing?
After the pre-sentence investigation is complete, the court will schedule the sentencing hearing. During this formal court proceeding, the prosecution and the defense will present the facts pertinent to the case as well as any aggravating/mitigating factors before the judge imposes the sentence. The judge will listen to both sides and then decide on the appropriate punishment based on the unique facts of the case.
How Is the Sentence Determined?
In Florida, sentences are determined based on the sentencing guidelines outlined in the Florida Criminal Punishment Code. The Code lays out the mechanism for deciding on the appropriate punishment. These guidelines are most important in the prosecution of felonies because defendants convicted of a felony “score” a certain amount of points that affect the potential sentence that could be imposed.
When determining the most appropriate sentence, the judge will consider the following factors:
The type and nature of the crime committed by the defendant;
The character of the defendant, including their prior convictions (if any) and whether the defendant has shown any remorse;
The severity of the victim’s injury suffered during the defendant’s commission of the crime (the more severe the injury, the more points the defendant will score);
Sentence enhancements that apply to crimes involving kidnapping or false imprisonment of a child, domestic violence, drug trafficking, and criminal gang activity; and
The need to protect the community from the defendant (the judge will need to consider whether or not the defendant poses any danger to the community).
A skilled attorney on your side can evaluate the facts of your case and help you understand the penalties you could face if convicted of the crime. Your attorney will also help you mount a strong defense to minimize the severity of punishment or avoid a conviction altogether.
Will You Get a Chance to Speak During Sentencing?
If your goal is to avoid or minimize the punishment, it may be more impactful if you speak prior to sentencing—specifically, during the pre-sentence investigation, which we discussed above. When preparing its recommendation to the judge, the probation department will most likely speak with the defendant to ask their opinion. However, you might want to consult with your attorney to determine when it would be best to speak and what statements you should give in order to secure the most favorable outcome possible.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
At DaytonaDefense.com, I understand the urgency of your situation no matter what stage you are at in your criminal case. I am prepared to represent your rights during the sentencing hearing, explore alternative sentencing options, and do whatever it takes to help you fight for a lighter or reduced punishment. Get in touch today to get detailed guidance on how to prepare for your sentencing hearing and what you can do to fight the charges.