Criminal Sentencing — It's Not As Straightforward As You Think

14 June 2019
 Categories: Law, Blog

A criminal case has many stages. The final stage in most trials is sentencing. When a defendant is found guilty, the judge will hand down a sentence. You might think that sentencing would be the easy part of a judge's job, but the sentencing process is complex.

Many factors must be considered when determining a sentence, and these factors are not taken lightly. A sentence will determine the course of a defendant's life, and judges want to ensure they are making the right recommendation based on the facts surrounding each case.

Statutory Mandates

The first factor that a judge will take into consideration when handing down a sentence is any statutory mandates associated with the crime the defendant has been found guilty of committing.

Most criminal offenses have mandatory minimum sentences set forth by law that a judge must abide by. Some offenses also have a maximum sentence that a judge cannot exceed. The statutory mandates serve as sentencing guidelines to help ensure that the punishment fits the crime.

Criminal History

Once a judge has defined the statutory mandates for a crime, he or she will evaluate the criminal history of the defendant.

If the individual is a first-time offender, then a more lenient sentence might make sense. Individuals with an extensive criminal past are more likely to get a harsher sentence since they have failed to show their commitment to a crime-free lifestyle.

Criminal history doesn't have to influence a judge's sentencing recommendations, but it often does play a role in the process.


The attitude of the defendant can also play a role in the sentencing process. A judge wants to see that the defendant recognizes the negative impact his or her actions have had on the victim and the victim's family members. Defendants are usually given an opportunity to give a statement prior to sentencing, and any remorse or regret demonstrated in this statement can serve as mitigating factors during sentencing.

A defendant that does not appear to regret the commission of the crime he or she has been found guilty of and defendants that displayed unusual cruelty during the commission of their crime are more likely to receive a longer sentence from the judge.

Sentencing is a complex process that leaves a lot to the discretion of the judge presiding over a case. An experienced criminal law defense attorney can be a valuable asset in ensuring that all the facts are presented during sentencing to ensure a fair and equitable punishment. Contact an attorney like Barry W Engle PC for more information on criminal law.