A sentencing hearing is usually the last stage of a criminal case. Usually, whether this hearing will take place depends on whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor and whether the criminal charges were state or federal charges. The sentencing hearing is the stage of a criminal case when penalties are imposed. The penalties imposed during a sentencing hearing depend on several things, such as the crime’s severity, mitigating circumstances, any plea agreements, and the defendant’s prior criminal history. That said, it is crucial that a defendant prepares adequately for their sentencing hearing.
Ways a Criminal Case Can Go to a Sentencing Hearing
A sentencing hearing comes after a guilty plea, which is when a defendant admits to committing the crime or after a defendant has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. If a defendant wins a case at trial or if a case is dismissed, there is no sentencing hearing.
When a criminal trial ends and a defendant is found guilty of committing the crime, the defendant will likely need to attend a sentencing hearing some weeks after the trial. However, if the judge renders a sentence at the end of the trial, there will be no need for a sentencing hearing. In the state of New York, sentencing hearings are usually required for all felony convictions.
If a guilty plea is negotiated with the prosecuting attorney, it might lead to a reduced sentence. However, if, after bargaining, there isn’t an agreement on a sentence, the judge might order a sentencing hearing and make a decision regarding the sentence for the guilty plea during this hearing.
What Happens During Sentencing Hearings?
At this hearing, the defense and prosecution try to convince the judge to give the defendant a reduced or increased sentence. Each side is allowed to speak to the judge about issues such as past criminal history and the effect of the crime on the victim.
During sentencing hearings, the prosecution side is the first to make its statements. Usually, the prosecution will try and convince the judge to impose a particular punishment, and the defense side will argue why the judge should impose a less severe sentence.
In regards to defense statements during a sentencing hearing, they come in two types. First, the defense attorney speaks to the judge. Then before the hearing ends, the defendant is given an opportunity to talk to the judge. These two chances to speak to the judge during a sentencing hearing are crucial. They can play a major role in swaying the judge’s decision.
Preparing for a Sentencing Hearing
Defendants are well-advised to prepare strategically for the sentencing hearing with a qualified criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you prepare what you will say in court. They can help you make sure you say something that will have an impact on the judge. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help present you fully prepared at your sentencing hearing, which can save you years in prison.
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