Being charged with a crime is a scary and uncertain process. One where a person’s livelihood, freedom and status in the community can be permanently affected by the negative consequences that can result from a criminal conviction and incarceration.
Whether a person charged with a crime intends on fighting the charges and taking the case to trial or believes they will achieve the best result through a negotiated plea agreement they must be prepared to conduct a sentencing hearing with the judge should they be found guilty at trial or for the possibility that the prosecutor is not agreeable to a fair disposition in their case. It is essential to retain the services of the best criminal lawyer you can as there is so much at stake in a case where your freedom and livelihood are at stake.
A sentencing hearing is where both parties, the State and the Defense, present evidence and arguments in an attempt to persuade the judge to sentence the defendant to the sentence they recommend to the judge. The normal rules of evidence do not apply to sentencing hearings. At a sentencing hearing, each party may present evidence that would normally be considered hearsay. Testimony as to the defendant’s character is admissible at a sentencing hearing, whereas at trial testimony regarding the defendant’s character would normally be inadmissible.
An experienced criminal lawyer will always attempt to prepare his client for the possibility of having to have a sentencing hearing. The evidence that would be admissible at a sentencing hearing often can be persuasive in negotiations with the prosecutor and can often mean the difference between incarceration or no incarceration in a case.
So what factors must the judge consider at a sentencing hearing?The court must hear evidence in aggravation (factors that are bad) and evidence in mitigation.