This is the last in a series of blogs about the six stages of a criminal case, and what actions you should take in each stage. Please be sure to read the previous four parts: Initial Investigation, Arrest and Charges, Pre-Trial Court Dates, Discovery, and Trial. Always remember that all cases vary, and stages of a case can happen simultaneously. If you have any questions about legal charges you are facing, or need a lawyer’s advice, please contact me ASAP for a free consultation. It’s very important to have someone on your side as you are facing the quagmire our legal system can become. Ensure your rights are protected at all times!
The Trial is over...now what?
Hopefully the verdict is not guilty! But if you’ve heard that dreaded phrase “We find the defendant guilty”, your fate is in the judge’s hands. This is the final stage of a trial, and it’s called the sentencing.
What happens at a sentencing?
Sentencing for a misdemeanor case generally happens immediately after a trial. In the case of a felony trial the sentencing is typically scheduled for a month after the trial to give the attorneys and the judge time to prepare. In those type of sentencings, the judge will certainly take advice from the attorneys about the appropriate punishment. The judge will take factors about you, minimum sentencing laws (if applicable), the crime itself, and the input from attorneys, law enforcement officials, and the probation department all into account. Then, he or she will use that information to make a judgement that will certainly affect your future.
Factors that could influence sentencing
When the judge looks at what your sentence will be, he or she will likely take many factors into account. Some of these include:
- Factors in your life that could have influenced you (drugs & alcohol, medical health, financial stress, etc)
- Your prior criminal history (or lack thereof)
- Whether or not anyone was hurt
- Whether or not you displayed cruelty or viciousness
- Whether or not you show remorse for what you have done
Not all sentences mean you will be spending time behind bars. There are several different kinds of sentences that the judge could hand down, and these include:
- Probation, where you do not serve time, but you are under the supervision of a probation officer.
- Community Service
- Suspended Sentence, where the judge does not send you to jail, though he or she has the right to do so later on.
- Jail/Prison Time, which is usually dictated by state law for the particular charges you are convicted of with little discretion left to the judge.
Mandatory sentences and what they could mean for your case
One of the biggest factors in what the judge hands down for a sentence can be traced to mandatory sentencing laws. Each state has its own sentencing laws. Arizona’s are among the strictest in the country.
Arizona has mandatory minimum jail and prison for many crimes. Even if it is your first offense. But if it is not your first offense, even if your prior conviction is several years old, prison is mandatory. And the amount of prison time can rise dramatically if you have two or more prior felony convictions.
How a good lawyer can help at this stage
Like at every other stage of a trial, a great criminal defense attorney is the most vital piece of your legal puzzle. Often, judges will get input from the attorneys before making their decision about sentencing. Your attorney can argue for a lighter or suspended sentence and make sure that you are kept aware of what is happening at all times.