A sentencing hearing is typically the final step in a criminal case. The Defendant has already been found guilty or plead guilty at or prior to this hearing. After both parties have presented evidence and argument, the court will decide which penalties to impose as a result of the conviction.
In felony cases, prior to a judge determining the punishment for a crime there will be a presentence investigation (PSI). This will provide the judge with background information on the defendant, family life, prior criminal history, mental health factors, personal letters from employers, friends or family, defendants level of guilt for the crime, and various other factors. This gives the judge insight into the defendant's personal nature, background, and criminal history. Because this step does not take place in Misdemeanor DUI cases, it is up to the defendant's attorney to bring to light any of these factors that are important for the judge to know.
The punishment for a crime, and what the judge will “sentence” a defendant, depends on the severity of the crime. The following sentences can be made by the judge. The defendant will either
- Have to pay a fine and/or serve community service
- Be put on probation
- Be sent to Jail or Prison (no prison time on a misdemeanor)
- Treatment for Drugs or Alcohol
- License Suspension
- Installation of an Interlock Device
Depending on the classification of the DUI you are facing different possible penalties - Make sure you know what punishments are possible: First DUI, Second DUI, Third DUI, Excessive DUI, Aggravated DUI. Also Make sure you are aware of the new changes in Idaho DUI laws.
There will be many factors that determine what punishment a defendant will receive. It is important to work with your attorney to understand what each of these punishments will entail.
Potential penalties in a DUI case include jail, fines, court costs, restitution, DUI evaluation, victim's panel, license suspension, interlock device, supervised or unsupervised probation, and other terms an conditions of probation that a judge may issue.
How Does A Judge Decide Sentence?
At the hearing, a court will consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The Court has many factors it must consider when deciding on an appropriate sentence. In Idaho, the court's chief concerns are the protection of society, deterrence of the individual and the public generally, possibility of rehabilitation, and punishment or retribution for wrongdoing.
The prosecutor will likely present evidence and argument that for the protection of society the defendant should be severely punished for his wrongdoing. If there is a victim, the prosecutor will request the court to allow them to make a statement.
The defendant's attorney will present evidence that the court system can rehabilitate the defendant. The defense will argue and present evidence that the defendant is not in need of severe punishment. He will cite things like lack of criminal history, steady employment, family considerations, and other similar factors.
The court will finally give the defendant an opportunity to speak if he wishes. If the defendant does not want to talk, the court will not hold that against the defendant, since the defendant has a right to remain silent.
The court will then craft, what it deems to be an appropriate sentence. The court will consider the evidence and argument from the attorneys, and any statements made by the defendant.
How Should I Prepare For Sentencing?
First: talk with your attorney. Let them know what you think is important to bring up at sentencing. Second: understand all the potential punishments. Make sure you understand what the judge could possibly do. Third: Set realistic expectations. It will do you no good to expect something unrealistic is going to happen. Everyone wants to believe they are special but the truth is that the judge has probably sentenced dozens of cases with similar facts to yours. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that your case will receive a significantly different sentence than those other cases. Fourth: Have at least a rough idea of any statement you intend to make. Rambling off the cuff at sentencing is not a good idea. It is better to say too little then to say too much. The best idea is always to keep it short and to the point. Key points to make: I'm sorry, I take full responsibility for my actions, I understand what I did was wrong, and I will never do this again. Anything beyond that comes across as an excuse or a justification: the two things a judge NEVER wants to hear.