Sentencing Hearings


The sentencing stage is probably the most important stage of any criminal prosecution, with the exception of trial. As you may be well aware, most cases do not end up going to trial. I think it would be fair to say that about 3% cases end up going to trial. This is the case because there is usually a plea deal offered where the risk of going to trial and losing outweighs the (almost) certain outcome of the case per the plea deal. In other words if the county attorney charged a person with eight (8) counts of theft, the county attorney may agree to dismiss seven (7) counts of theft if the person agrees to plead guilty to one (1) count of theft. In a majority of cases, it would be unwise to go to trial with an offer like this hanging out there on the board. Of course, if the county attorney has zero evidence you committed the theft(s), then it may be wise to take it to trial. Regardless, due to plea deals it is safe to say that a high majority of cases do not go to trial. If you do not have a trial, the most important part of your case is the sentencing portion of the case because it is the time the judge (aka the court) determines what your punishment, or penalty, will be based upon your conviction. 

With the above said, what should you do prior to going into your sentencing hearing? First off, you should not pick up any new charges before your sentencing hearing. This should be obvious, but I see my clients do it all the time. It is something we can work with but do your best not to pick up any new charges before the sentencing hearing. Secondly, assuming you were charged with substance abuse assault crimes, it would be a good idea to get treatment for the charge you are accused of by the State. Judges love seeing when a defendant has sought treatment for the crime they committed to help them become a better person. It shows the court that the defendant took initiative and is serious about the charge. This helps significantly when the judge takes into consideration his two big factors he/she uses in determining the outcome of a defendant's case. The two big factors are (1) allowing for maximum rehabilitation for the defendant-aka what outcome would give the defendant the best chance at succeeding and (2) the protection to the public. 

If one can show they are seeking treatment to better themselves, it shows they can likely succeed on probation. Taking initiative and showing the court you are willing to become a better person is big in the outcome of a person's case. It is a good idea to speak to a criminal defense attorney to get some good ideas where you should go as there are places that are better than other places. Next in determining the outcome of a defendant's case, the court looks to the victim. Was the victim "made whole" or what can it do to help the victim. For example, if you are in on a theft charge for stealing $500.00 from your "buddy," you may want to give him his $500.00 back before sentencing; make sure you do NOT pay the buddy back until after the plea has been made or the jury has rendered a guilty verdict. In some cases, the county attorney may agree to reduce the charge if the victim is paid back their restitution. It just depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.

Lastly, I think the most important factor in the sentencing phase is accepting responsibility for your actions. Remember you already pled guilty to the crime or were found guilty by a jury. There is no point to argue during the sentencing stage of your case that you did not do it. There can be an entirely different outcome to a defendant's case should he go into sentencing and not accept responsibility. Simply put, you will want to accept responsibility. 

It is so very important that your sentencing hearing does not get messed up or spiral downward. It is always a good idea to speak with a defense attorney before you are scheduled to have your sentencing hearing. They can advise you on what you need to do prior to the hearing so that you can get the best realistic outcome to your case. If you have any questions regarding your sentencing hearing, do not hesitate to contact the Feld Law Firm. A defense attorney would be happy to speak with you and point you in the right direction.