What is Sentencing in Court?

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What is Sentencing in Court?

Sentencing in court is that stage of a criminal trial when the defendant is informed of the sentence for their charges.  After being found guilty, the judge will usually pronounce the sentence that the defendant must fulfill in connection with the conviction.  Criminal sentencing is usually one of the later stages of trial. 

What are Sentencing Guidelines?

Every state has different court sentencing guidelines, and there are also federal sentencing guidelines.  These are related to the various other rules for criminal procedure, motions, and court requests.  Sentencing guidelines create various classifications and categories of different sentence ranges, which may be arranged according to the type or seriousness of the crime.

For instance, the sentencing guidelines may state that all felonies are punishable by at least one year in prison, along with criminal fines.  It may also state that misdemeanors shall not be punishable by a jail sentence of more than one year.

Sentencing guidelines can also prescribe ranges, such as 5-10 years for grand theft charges, or 1-5 years for felony embezzlement.  The guidelines are not meant to be rigid rules, but rather serve as suggestions that a court or judge can follow during the sentencing portion of trial.

What if There is a Problem or Disagreement with the Sentencing?

Criminal sentences can’t violate any constitutional rights, such as the 8th amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.  Criminal sentences generally increase with repeat or multiple offenses.  If there is a problem or disagreement with the sentencing, it may be possible to challenge the ruling.  This is usually done through a criminal appeal or by filing a motion with the court to reconsider the ruling. 

However, appeals are not always available in every criminal case.  They are usually reserved for cases where there has been a grave error in the case that was “prejudicial” to the defendant. 

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Questions Regarding Sentencing in Court?

Criminal sentencing is a very important part of any trial.  If you or your loved one is facing a criminal trial, you may wish to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in you area.  A qualified attorney will be able to speak with you regarding sentencing guidelines in your area.  Also, a lawyer can assist you regarding the sentencing procedures during the actual court hearings.

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Last Modified: 12-28-2012 04:00 PM PST

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