For misdemeanor cases, the judge will typically sentence the defendant immediately after they plead guilty or no contest or are found guilty by trial. Felonies will usually mean the judge will not impose a sentence until several days later in a separate sentencing hearing.
When significant periods of incarceration are at stake, the probation department will have prepared a presentence report which they will argue over with the defense.
Judges usually consider oral statements made in court along with the probation officer's written presentence report when they decide the sentence to hand down. As one might expect, the prosecution will attempt to obtain the maximum punishment for the defendant by noting any aggravating factors in their case and any history of criminal behavior. At the same time, the defense will argue for a lighter penalty. Defendants also may speak on their own behalf before the judge imposes a sentence.
The Role of the Victim
Victims also have a role to play in the sentencing—they can tell the judge how the crime has impacted their life, the pain they have suffered as a result, and any other reason why the judge should impose a harsh penalty. Victims have a right to make such statements before the judge.
Sentences are increasingly reflecting the impact the offense has on the victim and probation officers will often include a victim impact statement in the presentence report. Victims may also be eligible to recover restitution from the defendant or crime victim assistance funds which are paid by the county or state.
If you are facing criminal charges you need a dedicated Houston criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights. Call The Martinez Law Firm today for a free case evaluation!