Who determines the sentence for a convicted criminal?

No Contest Pleas in Pennsylvania
August 28, 2019
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Who determines the sentence for a convicted criminal?

After you plead guilty or if you’re found guilty at trial, you can expect to have a sentencing hearing. The sentencing hearing is where the court decides your penalty. How you approach the sentencing hearing can have a big impact on the sentence that you receive. Here’s what you need to know about sentencing hearings from our criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Richard Fink:

Who determines the sentence for a convicted criminal?

In most cases, the judge determines the sentence for a convicted criminal. Some states have jury sentencing, but that’s the exception. Usually, the sentencing decision is left to the judge even if a jury decides guilt or innocence in the case. While victims may give input, they do not decide the sentence. The judge listens to both sides and considers all relevant factors when they make their sentencing decision.

Are you sentenced by a judge or jury in Pennsylvania?

You’re sentenced by a judge in Pennsylvania. Even if the jury decides your guilt or innocence, the sentencing decision is only up to the judge. The Pennsylvania constitution does not provide for jury sentencing. The judge that presides over your jury trial ultimately decides your sentence.

PA sentencing guidelines matrix

The PA sentencing guidelines matrix is a system that creates recommendations for a criminal sentence. Pennsylvania uses sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines are a matrix. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that people who commit similar offenses receive similar penalties. The PA sentencing guidelines matrix takes your criminal history and the details of the offense into account when it calculates a recommended range of sentencing for the judge to consider.

What factors do judges use in determining sentences?

When determining a sentence, judges use a number of factors that relate to the history of the individual and the nature of the offense. Some of the factors that a judge may consider include the following:

  • Criminal history of the offender
  • Violent nature of the crime
  • Whether an accident occurred; whether anyone got hurt
  • Interference with public order or the judicial system
  • Input from the victim
  • Remorse from the defendant
  • Whether the defendant has started drug or alcohol treatment, if applicable
  • Employment status of the defendant
  • Any mitigating circumstances relating to the offense
  • Any other relevant factor

There isn’t one factor that automatically matters more than others. In a state that uses sentencing guidelines, some factors are assigned to a point system that creates a range of months in jail or prison for the judge to consider. However, with or without sentencing guidelines, it’s up to the judge to weigh each factor as they see fit.

Pennsylvania attorneys for sentencing hearing

It’s important to carefully prepare for your sentencing hearing. You have the right to a criminal defense attorney at your sentencing hearing. Let our professionals ensure that you handle your sentencing hearing in the best possible way. Call our criminal defense attorney Richard Fink for a confidential consultation about your case.