Criminal sentencing refers to the legal process in which an individual that is found guilty of a crime is punished for that crime. The criminal sentencing phase is separate from the part of the criminal trial that is used to determine whether or not a person is guilty or innocent of the crime they are accused of committing. There are many forms of crimes and criminal charges, which means that there are also many different levels of potential criminal sentences.
Common examples of criminal sentences include criminal fines, prison time, and community service. Additionally, there are rarer forms of criminal sentences, such as the death penalty, that may be part of criminal sentencing in states that still employ such measures.
It is important to note that each state and jurisdiction is responsible for determining their own criminal sentencing guidelines. Because of this, how a crime is sentenced could be influenced by the location where the crime occurred, as well as the severity of the criminal action. In most cases, the judge that is responsible for overseeing the trial is the actor who will ultimately make the criminal sentencing decision. However, in any case that involves capital punishment or that involves a jury, the jury will be present for the sentencing phase of a trial.
During the sentencing portion of a criminal trial, additional evidence may be presented that was not allowed to be presented during the portion of the trial in which the defendant’s guilt or innocence was determined. For example, a person’s past criminal history cannot be used as evidence to determine their present guilt or innocence, but such evidence may be used as evidence to determine criminal sentencing. Thus, individuals that have been previously convicted of the same or similar crime may receive a harsher sentence than first time offenders.
Before deciding a criminal sentence, a judge may also consider some other factors, such as:
- The convicted person’s role in the offense. In other words, were they the main actor or an accessory to the crime;
- Whether or not the convicted person was unduly influenced or placed under duress;
- What the convicted person’s intentions and behavior were during the commission of the crime; and
- Both state and federal criminal sentencing guidelines. For example, judges will not typically stray too far from the guidelines for their jurisdiction and past criminal sentencing decisions for the same or similar crimes.
Are There Different Types of Criminal Sentences?
In short, yes. Once again, a presiding judge is granted a lot of discretion when determining and issuing a criminal sentence. This allows the judge to prescribe a variety of penalties that are appropriate for the crime committed. As previously mentioned, judges and jurors are to follow basic criminal sentencing guidelines for their jurisdiction in order to avoid any criminal sentence that could be unconstitutional.
Below is a list of different types of criminal sentences, as well as some phrases and terms that are often used in connection with criminal sentencing:
- Concurrent Sentences: Concurrent sentences are multiple sentences that are served at the same time as a result of earlier criminal proceedings. Once again, individuals found guilty of the same or similar crimes will often receive harsher penalties based on their previous sentences;
- Consecutive or Cumulative Sentences: Cumulative sentences occur when a person is convicted of more than one count of a crime. Each of the criminal charges must constitute a distinct or individual crime. These criminal sentences may be tacked on to one another, so that each term begins once the previous one has expired. For example, a person could serve multiple life sentences in prison;
- Deferred Sentences: Deferred sentences are sentences that are postponed until a later specified time. Deferred sentences allow the defendant to complete some form of probation, such as community service or counseling, instead of going to jail. Deferred sentencing allows the judge to delay a final verdict of guilty or innocent until a later specified time, and the defendant has met all requirements of their probation.
- Deferred sentences also allow a judge more flexibility in alternative methods of criminal sentencing, which will be discussed in detail further below. Importantly, deferred sentencing is generally granted to first time offenders rather than repeat offenders;
- Determinate Sentence: Determinate sentences are also known as a fixed sentence. Such sentences are not generally eligible for modification or adjustment;
- Indeterminate Sentence: Most criminal sentences are fixed. In other words, criminal sentences have both a beginning and end. However, indeterminate sentences are open ended and declare that the sentencing period is not to exceed or fall short of a certain amount of time. Such sentences are generally only granted through state statutes, and not at the federal level;
- Mandatory Sentence: Mandatory sentences are sentences in which the judge has little or no discretion in regards to adjusting the time period.This means that alternative sentencing and probation will not be allowed. Mandatory sentencing is also governed by state criminal sentencing statutes;
- Presumptive Sentence: State statutes may provide guidance on an appropriate or common criminal sentence associated with a given crime. Such guidelines are meant to assist judges in determining a criminal sentence after reviewing all relevant information. Once again, the judge will have the final say in the actual criminal sentence; and
- Suspended Sentence: Suspended sentences refer to either postponing the pronouncement of a criminal sentence after conviction, or postponing the enforcement of the criminal sentence until after it has already been pronounced.
What Is an Alternative Sentence?
Once again, an individual that is convicted of a criminal act will receive a criminal sentence that consists of legal consequences such as jail time, criminal fines, or an alternative sentence. An alternative sentence is a sentence that deviates from the traditional sentence of imprisonment and/or paying criminal fines.
Common examples of alternative sentences include work furloughs, probation, community corrections programs, diversion programs, and rehabilitation programs. An individual may also receive an alternative sentence that includes electronic monitoring, such as a probation sentence that includes house arrest with electronic monitoring or alcohol intake monitoring via an ignition interlock device.
What Is Electronic Monitoring?
Electronic monitoring is an accessory to an alternative criminal sentence, such as cases that end with probation, house arrest, or drug testing. Electronic monitoring is a monitoring system that often includes a residential phone line, a monitoring device, and the utilization of an ankle bracelet. The electronic monitoring device keeps track of the defendant’s every move utilizing a form of global positioning system (“GPS”).
However, not every ankle monitor utilizes the same technology. Some ankle monitors utilize wifi, some utilize GPS, while many of them utilize a combination of the two. Once again, the most common type of ankle monitor technology is a GPS that utilizes cellular transmitters. The reason why this electronic monitoring system is the most common is because it is completely self-contained and doesn’t need any additional technologies to function, such as wifi. However, monitors that utilize a wifi network can often be more accurate and are able to determine an individual’s position within a few feet.
How Does Electronic Monitoring Work?
As far as the actual technological process, an electric monitoring system obtains continual coded signals that are transmitted from the ankle bracelet. These signals are then transmitted via a telephone line, cellular transmitters, or wifi back to the home computers that monitor the location of the individual wearing the monitor. These signals are analyzed to track the wearer’s every movement.
For example, the device can detect when the person ordered to wear the device enters or exits their house, or leaves a certain designated area. The electronic monitoring system can even detect if the person attempts to tamper, remove, alter, or damage the monitor.
In addition to utilizing a global positioning system (“GPS”), some forms of electronic monitors can also test a person’s breath as well. These types of electronic monitoring accessories are most often used by the judge to test the alcohol concentration level of the wearer in cases involving alcohol or drug use.
Who Receives the Transmitted Information?
The information transmitted from an electronic monitor is received by the electronic monitoring provider. At that point it is the provider’s duty to distribute status reports to the wearer’s probation office or court that continues to preside over the defendant’s case.
If the wearer of the electronic monitoring system violates the conditions of their alternative sentence, then they could have to wear the electronic monitoring system for longer, or receive the criminal penalties that were otherwise deferred.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Electronic Monitoring?
If you have been convicted of a crime that resulted in being monitored via an electronic monitoring device, and you have questions regarding the electronic monitoring system, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area.
An experienced attorney will be able to assist you in determining your best legal course of action moving forward with your criminal sentence. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, should a criminal hearing be necessary for a violation of the terms of your alternative criminal sentence.