Sentencing is when the court imposes a punishment on the defendant after they have been found guilty at trial or has pled guilty to a crime. A judge will hold a hearing before they render their decision about the criminal sanctions for the defendant. The sentencing hearing is a tremendously stressful proceeding for the defendant because they literally learn their own fate. The defendant has a right to be heard before the judge hands down a sentence.
The DOC May Prepare a Sentencing Report Ahead of Time
The lead-up to the sentencing hearing depends on the type of crime at issue. If the defendant has been convicted of a felony, the Department of Community Corrections will prepare a sentencing report for the judge, giving background on the defendant and the case. The DOC will also include a sentencing recommendation that the judge will consider in reaching their decision. The recommendation is not binding, but a judge would usually give some weight to what the DOC recommends.
The Defendant Has a Right to Present Their Own Circumstances
The defendant may also have their own ability to present information that the judge could consider. The defense would cite factors that they believe the judge should consider imposing a more lenient sentence. The defense may argue that the defendant has extenuating circumstances that require them to either avoid jail entirely or serve a lesser sentence. The defense may also present letters from people who know the defendant that will explain why they deserve a lesser sentence or the ramifications of a longer sentence.
In addition, people who have been affected by the crime have the right to share their statements with the court. The judge will consider the victim’s impact statement in imposing the sentence on the defendant, although the victim or the family does not get to speak at the sentencing hearing.
The judge will consider all this information prior to the actual hearing. Before the hearing, the judge likely has an idea of the type of sentence that they want to impose, but they first need to hear from the parties in person. Both the prosecution and the defense will get to make their case in person directly to the judge. The prosecutor and the defense attorney will have their chance to address the court.
The Defendant Has a Chance to Address the Court
One of the most important parts of the sentencing hearing is when the defendant addresses the judge and makes their own statement. Although it may not be persuasive because the judge has largely made up their mind, the defendant could potentially do damage to their own case if they do not show the proper remorse. Once the defendant has already been convicted, the judge is not looking to hear any justifications or continued protestations of innocence. Instead, the judge wants to hear that the defendant accepts responsibility and expresses remorse for what they did.
How Judges Will Reach Their Sentencing Decision
Specifically, Wisconsin judges will consider these factors in determining the sentence:
- The nature of the crime committed by the defendant – obviously being influenced by more egregious circumstances and the seriousness of the crime.
- The character of the defendant – the judge may react negatively when the defendant already has prior convictions or a poor reputation. If the defendant has not shown any remorse or the judge has seen poor conduct during the legal process, it could result in a harsher sentence.
- The need to protect the community from the defendant in the future – the judge weighs whether there is more of a need for deterrence or whether the defendant can be rehabilitated.
The Judge Will Address the Defendant When Imposing the Sentence
Before the judge imposes the sentence, they will ask the defendant to stand. The judge will address the defendant directly and give their own opinion of what they have seen and the defendant’s conduct. The judge will usually express their opinion of the defendant in the context of the case. They may also detail any aggravating or mitigating factors that affect the sentence that they are about to impose. At that point, the judge will announce the sentence to the court for each count. The judge will explain whether each sentence is consecutive or concurrent.
The defendant may appeal the conviction. In some cases, the defendant may be able to remain free on bond pending the appeal. If the defendant has pled guilty, or if there is no bond allowed, the defendant may be taken into custody directly after the conclusion of the sentencing hearing.
Wisconsin passed the Truth in Sentencing Act two decades ago. According to the law, if the defendant is sentenced to prison, their term will consist of the following:
- Confinement in prison
- A period of supervised release
If the defendant is sentenced to probation, the judge may impose a number of conditions that must be followed. For example, the defendant may be told to stay a certain distance away from a person or place. They may be ordered to undergo periodic or random drug or alcohol testing. Failure to follow these conditions could result in being ordered to prison.
You should always have an experienced attorney presenting your case to the judge prior to and during sentencing. Your need for a lawyer does not end at the time you were convicted or pled guilty. Your attorney could present compelling arguments to the judge that could result in a lesser sentence. The case does not end with your conviction.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff will work for you throughout all phases of the criminal justice process to help you obtain the best possible legal result. Everyone has legal rights no matter what crime they are accused of committing. We believe that everyone deserves a strong and vigorous criminal defense. To schedule your initial consultation with one of our attorneys, you can contact us online or call us today at (920) 450-9800.