A sentencing hearing is the stage of a criminal prosecution when penalties are imposed after a guilty plea, a plea of nolo contendre, or a defendant is found guilty by a jury or judge at trial. In Florida there are two stages to a sentencing hearing:
- Written judgment regarding the defendant’s guilt
- Sentencing order with the specific penalties
Those specific penalties vary according to the severity of the crime, any plea agreement, mitigating circumstances, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and any statements from victims. A first felony offense requires the judge to order a pre-sentencing investigation.
The purpose of a pre-sentencing investigation is to look into the background of the defendant in order to help the judge decide on the appropriate penalties for this individual.
The investigation is performed by a probation officer for the Florida Department of Corrections with help from your defense counsel. The probation officer will interview the defendant, the defendant’s family and employer, friends, and witnesses in the case. The investigation will examine:
- Why the crime was committed and its circumstances
- Any prior criminal history
- Character references
- Family background
- Employment history
- Physical and mental health
An experienced defense counsel is essential to a favorable pre-sentencing investigation. If a defendant is released on personal recognizance or on bail during the criminal prosecution, defense counsel will help devise a strategy to minimize negative factors in a pre-sentencing investigation. Your federal criminal defense lawyer can provide favorable information to help mitigate the severity of sentencing.
The judge, guided by statute, negotiated plea agreement, and pre-sentencing investigation, can impose several kinds of penalties during the sentencing phase of a prosecution.
- Fines: Usually reserved for misdemeanor and drug offenses, the judge can impose fines when authorized by statute
- Probation: Often used for first time offenders, probation is a privilege not a right. Probation requires reporting monthly to a probation officer and keeping the officer informed as to any changes in residence, employment, or travel.
- Community control: Often called house arrest, community control is stricter than probation, limiting activities and requiring greater supervision by a probation officer.
- Incarceration: The length of incarceration is governed by statute.
Talk to a skilled federal crimes defense lawyer
Even if you have already been arrested, you have the right to legal counsel. Don’t forgo that right. Call (305) 403-7323 or reach out to attorney Nayib Hassan online to discuss your case and your needs.