What to Expect During Sentencing
Statistics from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system indicate that there were 355,138 total arrests statewide in 2018. Of these, there were 66,149 arrests for property crimes, 136,209 for drug law violations, and 64,915 arrests for violent crimes. After any kind of criminal arrest, the accused person must navigate the Pennsylvania criminal justice system.
If you're found guilty during a criminal trial or if you plead guilty, you may be sentenced immediately or at a sentencing hearing. It’s important not to navigate any part of this process alone.
A knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can enlighten you about what to expect during sentencing and advocate for your best interests. At Strand Law Offices, LLC, we're committed to offering comprehensive guidance and skilled representation to clients in their criminal cases. Our attorney can prepare you for the sentencing hearing, fight vigorously for your rights, and explore the possibility of an alternative sentencing.
We're proud to serve clients across West Chester and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Set up a consultation today.
What Is a ‘Sentence’?
A sentence can be described as a term of imprisonment, penalty, or legal punishment imposed on a convicted defendant by a judge for breaking the law or committing a crime. Defendants who plead guilty or no contest will receive a sentence for the crime committed. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, convicted offenders will receive a sentence for their criminal wrongdoing at the sentencing hearing.
When Does Sentencing Occur?
The sentencing typically happens in the same courtroom or courthouse where the trial occurred. Defendants who have pleaded guilty and accepted a plea deal may be sentenced immediately, depending on the sentence agreed with the prosecutor. Keep in mind that if the offender was found guilty or convicted at trial, the sentencing hearing may be scheduled at a later date. Depending on the surrounding circumstances of the case, sentencing could occur several weeks after the conviction.
What Happens During Sentencing?
Each criminal case is unique, and what will happen during sentencing depends on the nature and surrounding circumstances of the crime. If you're preparing for a sentencing hearing, here's what you may expect:
Review Pre-Sentence Report: At the sentencing hearing, the presiding judge will review the pre-sentence report (PSR) provided by the court's probation department. The PSR involves a summary of the crime and the personal, family, education, criminal, and employment history of the defendant. This will help the judge determine a fair and appropriate sentence.
Review the Case Details: In addition, the judge will evaluate all of the facts of the case. This will help the judge determine the length, disposition, and nature of the sentence, according to applicable state laws and sentencing requirements. However, the judge may not go below the mandatory minimums or above the maximums, if any.
Hear from Both Attorneys: The judge will listen to arguments from both the prosecution attorney and defense counsel. The attorneys can present additional evidence and make arguments to plead their case and request a harsher or lesser punishment.
Hear from the Victim: The judge will also ask if the victim wants to speak. The victim or their family members will be allowed to give testimony or make statements against the defendant.
Hear from the Defendant: Similarly, the judge will allow the defendant to speak. This may be one last opportunity to plead your case and hope for a reduced penalty.
Consider Sentencing Alternatives: Depending on the nature of the crime and other factors, the judge may consider other alternatives to jail for the defendant. These could include alcohol or drug abuse treatment programs, house arrest, probation, and community service.
Issue a Sentence: Finally, the judge will issue a sentence for the convicted defendant based on the applicable state laws and sentencing guidelines. In most cases, a first-time offender will probably receive a lesser sentence, while a habitual offender might be punished harshly.
A dedicated criminal defense lawyer can represent you intelligently at the sentencing hearing and help you achieve the best available outcome for your unique situation.
How Exactly Is the Sentence Determined?
To issue a fitting sentence, the judge may take the following factors into consideration:
The defendant's criminal record or history
The severity, seriousness, or gravity score of the crime
The character of the offender and the support system available to them
The offender's career and involvement within their community
The defendant's actions and behavior during pretrial release or while awaiting trial
Any court-related programs completed by the offender
Generally, the judge will sentence the defendant based on their discretion—while considering the necessary factors, of course. Regardless, the judge may not go below the mandatory minimum punishments or above the mandatory maximum punishments required for the offense in question.
You Deserve Strong Representation
Getting effective representation during sentencing is crucial to achieving a path forward. At Strand Law Offices, LLC, we have the diligence and skill to defend and represent convicted defendants during the sentencing hearing. As your legal counsel, we can help present factual evidence to plead your case and uphold your rights.
Contact us at Strand Law Offices, LLC, today to schedule a simple case evaluation with a criminal defense lawyer. Our attorney can offer you the support you need during sentencing. We proudly serve clients across West Chester and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.