The trial in a criminal case can determine whether a person keeps their freedom or if they do not. This is by far one of the largest steps in the criminal justice system process, but is by no means the end of the process. It is important to understand the steps in this process if you have been charged with a crime.
Conviction means an individual has been found guilty of the crime they have been charged with. Therefore, at a later date the defendant will be brought back to the court for sentencing.
Sentencing refers to the punishment that will be assigned to the defendant because of their crime. Sentencing of a defendant requires various factors.
What if I am Found Not Guilty?
Being found not guilty means that you will have been acquitted. This is the best-case scenario for an individual proceeding with a court trial. You will most likely be allowed to go home the day of the verdict.
Prior to a judge determining the punishment for a crime there will be 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.
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 placed in a mental health facility (rare across the country, and extremely rare within the state of Idaho)
- Be put on probation
- Be sent to Jail or Prison
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.
What is the difference between Jail and Prison?
Jail and prison are ideologically the same thing: to take away the privilege of freedom. If you have been found guilty of a crime, and your punishment entails serving jail or prison time, then you have lost your privilege to freedom. You will be placed in a facility that restricts your access to society.
The difference however between jail and prison depends on three main factors,
- Length of confinement
- Severity of crime
If you are placed in jail you are serving a shorter sentence, have been convicted of a less severe crime, and will be in a facility that is ran by local law enforcement. If you are placed in prison you have been convicted of a serious crime and will be serving a longer sentence. Prisons are operated by state governments or the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).