Whether one pleads guilty to a criminal offense based on a plea agreement, or a guilty verdict is returned at trial, there will be a conviction followed by sentencing. While "sentencing" implies the imposition of either a jail or prison sentence, there are other alternatives available. The range of options available to a judge at a sentencing hearing include fines, court costs, community service, unsupervised probation, supervised probation, electronic home monitoring, work crew, work release, and/or straight incarceration.
For misdemeanor convictions, straight incarceration involves serving time in the county jail, while felony convictions may result in a sentence to a community corrections facility or to prison.
The outcome of a sentencing hearing is not normally a foregone conclusion, as many different factors are considered by the judge. As with other critical stages of a criminal case, the client and the case should be appropriately prepared in anticipation of sentencing. It is important for any criminal defense attorney to identify and marshall all available mitigation in order to highlight the facts most favorable to the client, and to attempt to blunt those that appear to be most damaging. This challenge sometimes begins at a very early stage in the case, particularly if the client would be well advised to attend special classes, participate in therapy, or participate in other remedial-type voluntary activities at the outset.
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