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Sentencing Basics

If you are found guilty or plead guilty, you will get your punishment from the judge. This is called sentencing. For violations and minor misdemeanor cases you may be sentenced right away. Where the possibility of prison time exists, you will most likely get a date a few weeks away for a sentencing hearing. A Pre-Sentence Report will be made to help the Judge decide your punishment. At your sentencing hearing, you, your lawyer, the Prosecutor and, in some cases, the victim of your crime, all have a chance to speak to the Judge about your sentence. The Judge decides your sentence.

Your lawyer and the Prosecutor may have agreed on your punishment by Plea Bargaining. But, the Judge does not have to follow any agreement between the prosecutor and your lawyer about your sentence. Your sentence depends on different things, like your background, your past convictions, what happened when you committed the crime, and the attitude of the victim (see Victim Impact Statement). Different Types of Criminal Cases have different ranges of punishments. This means that a Judge can’t sentence you to years in prison for a violation like jumping a turnstile. Your lawyer can explain the possible sentence for your crime. Also, there are many kinds of punishments besides jail or prison time that a Judge can use to punish a defendant, like probation, conditional discharge, unconditional discharge, Restitution and fines. Read Common Sentences to learn more. There are also a number of Surcharges and Fees, like the Crime Victim Assistance Fee, or mandatory surcharge, that the court orders you to pay.

A criminal sentence can also punish other areas of your life in ways you may not realize. It is important to understand what can happen. Speak to your lawyer and read Collateral Consequences Basics and use the calculator to see the possible consequences. Some consequences, like losing your apartment or a license for your job, can be avoided by getting a special certificate that gives you back your rights. See Getting Rights Back. You may be able to ask the Judge for this at your sentencing. It can also be asked for later.

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