Judge and lawyer discussing the sentence for prisoner

What to Expect During Sentencing

The Linder Firm May 2, 2023

In a state as large as Texas, the amount of crime will always be high which results in the largest prison population in the country. In 2020, this meant that there were a total of 121,119 people in either state prison or jail according to data put out by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. And though incarceration is a very common sentence for more serious crimes, not everyone who’s convicted will see the inside of a jail cell.  

When you’re facing criminal charges, it’s essential that you work with your lawyer to fully understand what to expect at sentencing. This will help you make sure you’re as prepared as you can be, no matter what the judge decides. To speak with a criminal defense attorney about a case you’re involved in, reach out to The Linder Firm, serving those in Dallas, Texas, and throughout the Dallas Metro and North Texas.  

When Does Sentencing Occur?

Texas sets sentencing guidelines for crimes ranging from low-level misdemeanors to high-level felonies. However, you typically won’t know what your punishment will be until the sentencing hearing.  

In some misdemeanor cases, a judge may issue your sentence immediately after a guilty plea. In more serious cases, the judge or jury won’t deliver the sentence right away. This could mean only a few days, but it could also be weeks. If your attorney negotiated a plea bargain for you, then you will likely already know what your sentence will be and the judge reading it off will only be a formality.  

What Happens During Sentencing?

In many cases, before the actual sentencing can take place, a presentencing report is needed. This document basically lays out the details of the crime you’ve been accused of, your criminal and social history, and what kind of restitution is required. This is intended to help the judge or jury determine the most fitting punishment within the sentencing guidelines. 

For most felony convictions and some misdemeanors, a sentencing hearing will then be scheduled for a later date. The prosecution and defense teams will then convene in the courtroom along with the judge and jury and your sentence will be formally read to you. The Linder Firm can help you understand what to expect in more detail. 

How Is the Sentence Determined?

One of the biggest questions you should know the answer to is, “How is the sentence determined in criminal cases?” Understandably, when you’re charged with a crime, you’ll want to know what the associated consequences will be. While it is possible to get an idea of the range of punishments you may face, it’s nearly impossible to predict exactly what it will look like for you because the judge or jury has so much discretion in this matter. When a judge determines your sentence, they’ll take many factors into consideration: 

  • Prior convictions: Typically, the more run-ins with the law you’ve had in your past, the more severe your sentence will be. Some crimes even have language about prior convictions included in the sentencing guidelines. However, if you’re a first-time offender or a juvenile, a judge is more likely to hand down a lesser sentence, and you may even qualify for a sentencing alternative, such as a diversion or treatment program in lieu of jail time.  

  • Extenuating factors: Judges will often look at the big picture of your case to get an idea of the circumstances under which the crime was committed. For example, if you were under duress or a large amount of stress at the time, a judge may take this under consideration when sentencing.  

  • Injured parties: In most cases, crimes that resulted in an injury to an innocent victim will see steeper sentences than victimless crimes. When the victim is in a protected class such as the elderly or law enforcement, expect consequences to be even higher. The judge may also request victim impact statements that can be used to inform the final sentence. 

  • Your behavior: Both judges and juries realize that you’re a real person with complex emotions. In some cases, if the defendant expresses strong regret or remorse about their actions the judge will be more inclined to hand down a lesser sentence. You may request or be asked to make a statement to the judge or jury and this can be very effective. This is known as a defendant’s allocution. On the other hand, if you’re rude during the trial or show indifference to the crimes you committed, you may see a more severe sentence. 

  • The nature of the crime: Actions that are particularly cruel, negligent, or intentionally destructive will often see harsher punishments. 

Strong & Dependable Legal Help

It’s crucial to have a complete understanding of the criminal justice process starting from the arrest and all the way to your sentencing, so you can know what to expect. If you’re in the Dallas, Texas region and would like to speak with a criminal defense attorney about your case, contact The Linder Firm to schedule a consultation.