The sentencing hearing is the punishment phase of the case. We may file a number of documents in support of our client’s position at sentencing. These documents may include letters from friends, family, co-workers, and other people who know the defendant well. These are often referred to as character letters. We may also submit documentation of any notable achievements such as academic achievements, work-related achievements, or charity work, essentially any documentation that will present our clients in a positive light. In regard to the scheduling of a sentencing hearing, it will depend on whether the charges are misdemeanors or felonies. In most misdemeanor cases the sentencing takes place immediately after the guilty plea. In felony cases, however, the sentencing hearing is held at least 20 days beyond the date that the guilty plea was entered. If the court orders that jail is a part of any sentence, most often the defendant will be taken into custody immediately. However, in many cases, we can persuade the prosecutor and/or the court to agree to allow our clients to surrender at a later date. In cases where there is a victim, such as crimes against a person, which include assault, and battery, and also financial crimes or theft crimes, often the victims will want to speak to the judge to express their opinion as to what the punishment should be. Therefore, it is common for victims to speak at sentencing hearings.
Likewise, it is also common that a defendant will speak to the judge during sentencing hearings. In my opinion, the court desires to hear from the defendant, to hear their thoughts about the experience, and especially, what steps they plan to take to avoid being in a similar position in the future. In most cases there are numerous opportunities to reduce the sentence. However, some cases involve an agreed-upon sentence as part of the plea agreement. However, in the vast majority of cases the judge does have discretion in terms of the magnitude of the punishment, so there are plenty of opportunities to argue for a reduced sentence. A defendant waiting for an outcome should stay productive, have a job and/or be enrolled in school, attend counseling if the situation warrants, and stay out of trouble. All of these activities will not only keep the defendant busy and productive but will help to present them in the most favorable light to the court and community.
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