If a court finds a defendant guilty during a criminal trial, the court moves onto sentencing. Unfortunately, pop culture has led many to believe that sentencing happens immediately after the guilty verdict has been pronounced and that the jury plays a role in determining the type of sentence or punishment of the crime. This article discusses how the court sentences a criminal once they are found guilty of the crime they committed.

Does The Jury Decide The Sentence?

In most instances, it is the judge who determines the sentence that a convicted person will receive. It depends on the crime. In most situations, the judge will be the sole decider of the punishment for the defendant. The exception is in crimes that may incur the death penalty. Capital punishment usually brings a host of Constitutional arguments. So, the courts will have a jury weigh in so the defendant’s peers can decide the sentence. Even still, in cases where a jury may recommend the death penalty, the judge may opt for life in prison.

How Can One Know What Punishment They May Receive?

Most states list punishments as a recommendation or guidance in statutes under the crime that the defendant committed. However, even if the laws do not list a punishment, certain crimes carry certain maximum punishments.

Typical first-degree misdemeanor punishments include a fine of up to $1000 and a prison sentence of up to a year. In this type of situation, the statutes might not list an actual punishment. However, the crime itself will be classified as a misdemeanor, thus giving the judge some leeway on what they can impose. A second-degree misdemeanor is typically punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The same is also true for felonies. If the crime is a felony, there might not be any punishment guidelines or recommendations. However, felonies carry with them a penalty of a fine of over $5000 and a prison sentence of over a year. Like misdemeanors, without a specific punishment to reference, the law gives the judge some leeway on the punishment that they can impose. Typically speaking, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a second-degree felony by up to 15 years in prison, a first-degree felony by up to 30 years in prison, life felonies and first-degree felonies punishable by life are punishable by up to life in prison, and capital crimes are punishable by death.

Ultimately, the best way to understand the type of punishment a person could be facing for a crime is to consult with a lawyer, such as the lawyers at Valrico Law Group.

Will Criminals Convicted Of Similar Crimes Receive Similar Sentences?

Not necessarily. Many states have mandatory minimums for some crimes. Mandatory minimums require judges to invoke similar punishments for similar offenses. The problem with mandatory minimums is that it may prevent the judge from considering other factors, which is why most jurisdictions have stopped imposing mandatory minimums and allow the judges to have discretion when deciding punishment. A judge might consider some factors: the defendant’s criminal history, age, mental capacity, circumstances that led to the defendant committing the crime, and remorse, to name a few.

Court Sentences a Criminal: What Role Does An Attorney Play In Sentencing?

The role an attorney plays in sentencing is to present evidence the might mitigate the defendant’s role in the crime, thus earning them a lighter sentence. On the other hand, prosecutors will attempt to prove aggravating circumstances to get the judge to hand down a harsher punishment.

What Are Alternative Sentences?

Alternative sentences are those sentences that may include house arrest, probation, restitution, or community service. In addition, in cases where addiction played a role in the crime, the judge might agree to a diversion program where the defendant seeks and received rehab, counseling, or therapy.

Contact Valrico Law Group

If you or a loved one are facing charges of a crime, contact Valrico Law Group. We will review your case and work diligently to ensure your rights are protected.