Sentencing Hearing - Indiana Criminal Litigation Process
If a Defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty at trial, his or her case will proceed to sentencing. With certain types of plea agreements, once the judge has accepted the plea, he or she has very little discretion about the range of penalties to impose. With other types of plea agreements, or after a trial, a sentencing hearing is a crucial phase when a Judge makes determinations about what penalty to impose within a given range. Different levels of charges have vastly different ranges of penalties.
To the uninitiated, a Court's sentence may appear to be an arbitrary number that is pulled from thin air. In reality, there are several factors that a Court may consider in arriving at whatever sentence to impose. Most importantly, a sentencing hearing presents a Defendant an opportunity to demonstrate that, even if he or she is responsible for a crime, there are other outside factors that should be considered, such as an otherwise law-abiding life, drug and/or alcohol addictions, extensive family commitments or the substantial chance at rehabilitation. A skilled criminal defense attorney can make an effective presentation of the most relevant of these factors so that the Court understands the Defendant's life history and personal issues that are relevant in an effort to receive a more lenient sentence.