The last phase of a criminal justice case is sentencing. If you have pled guilty or have been convicted of a crime, the judge would determine the sentence that you would face after learning more about you and considering the circumstances of the crime. Their sentencing options could include the following:
- Jail time
- Diversionary program
- Monetary fine
- Community service
The Judge Has the Discretion to Impose a Sentence Within the Constraints of the Law
The judge has a considerable amount of discretion in determining your sentence. They would want to hear from the prosecutor, you, and any victims of the crime. The judge would schedule a sentencing hearing where they would consider all points of view and inform you of your sentence after considering everything. By that point, the judge has already done most of their homework, and they have a firm idea of what they intend to do in your case.
The Presentencing Investigation Is a Crucial Part of Your Case
One of the single most important documents in your case is the presentencing investigation that the judge would review before the date of the hearing. The judge would decide to order the investigation to help them learn some of the relevant facts that they should consider. They have already observed you at trial, but they want to know more. The report is usually prepared by the person who would serve as your probation officer. The presentencing investigation is a requirement in federal cases, and it almost always happens in Wisconsin felony cases.
The Officer Would Perform an In-Depth Investigation
The investigating officer would take the time to learn the facts of both your situation and the impacts of the crime of which you have been convicted. They would present to the judge any extenuating circumstances that they should consider in connection with your crime. For example, if the defendant was convicted of theft at the same time that they had a critically ill family member, the judge may consider why they did what they did.
The investigating officer may interview some of the following people when preparing the report:
- The prosecutor
- Family members
- The victim
- Members of your community
- Your employer
The officer would also review the file from the court case. These documents could include trial transcripts and copies of the plea agreement. They may also review your treatment records if you are under care for substance abuse. You may even expect a home visit from the investigating officer, both to speak with you in more detail and to assess your current living conditions.
The Judge Often Relies on the Presentencing Investigation When Determining a Sentence
The purpose of the presentence investigation is to provide the judge with a concise yet detailed report that they can review when they are considering what sentence to impose. The investigating officer will do the work that the judge would not have time to do on their own. Everything would be covered in an extensive report that is given to the judge.
The investigating officer must also share the report with the defendant. You have the ability to object to the contents of the report that you believe to be inaccurate. The prosecutor, who may want you to receive a stiffer sentence, may also file their own objections to the report.
The presentencing investigation will not result in an actual recommendation for a sentence. Determining the actual jail sentence is the judge’s job. They will consider the contents of the report in reaching their own conclusion. However, the report may share what the impacts of the sentence would be on people, including the victim, your family, and the community. The report may also express its own opinion of your character and whether you could be rehabilitated.
Before the judge finalizes the sentence, they would hear from you directly in court. You have the right to address the court before you are sentenced. Most often, it would be to express remorse and accept responsibility for your actions. Otherwise, the judge may view a lack of remorse as a reason to impose a stiffer sentence.
Your Lawyer Will Help You During the Sentencing Phase
Your criminal defense attorney would continue to advocate for you all the way through sentencing (and a possible appeal, should you choose to file it). Your lawyer would help you prepare for key milestones between the conviction and the sentencing, including your interactions with the investigating officer. It is essential to continue to focus on the process, even after you have been convicted. It does not matter whether you agree with the judge’s or jury’s determination. How you present yourself to the investigating officer will ultimately make its way to the most important audience of all; the judge.
The presentencing investigation report may be used for much more than your sentence. It is also reviewed by the prison system to determine where you are sent to serve your sentence. The contents of the report could also dictate the conditions of your confinement and any restrictions that may be placed on you.
Thus, it is vital to try to present your best side to the investigating officer. You should be sure to be respectful and answer the questions to the best of your ability. Your attorney would give you advice on how to handle this process. Although the judgment has already been passed by the court, you have the ability to impact your sentence for better or worse.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff work with you at all phases of the criminal defense process, from the arraignment through the sentencing. We provide you with determined and steady legal representation that both advocates for you and allows you to make the best possible decisions. You should contact an attorney as soon as you have been arrested or learn that you are being investigated. Schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your case by calling us today at (920) 450-9800 or by contacting us online.