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What Happens at a Sentencing Hearing in Pennsylvania?

When a criminal defendant is found guilty, people sometimes assume this is the end of their case. However, there is still another step: the sentencing hearing. Sentencing is not always an automatic process, and a hearing may be necessary to determine the appropriate sentence.

The sentencing hearing occurs after a criminal defendant is found guilty and is aimed at determining a fair and appropriate sentence. When handing down the sentence, the judge may consider numerous laws, facts, and evidence. The sentencing hearing is important because it protects defendants from hasty, unfair sentencing practices and allows them to challenge their sentence before it is handed down. During your sentencing hearing, you should be on the lookout for various issues you can object to. If the judge considers evidence that is unlawful or deviates from sentencing guidelines, you can and should raise objections. Having a lawyer with you during this hearing is crucial, as they can defend your rights and appeal your sentence if need be.

To get a private case evaluation free of charge, call our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.

What is a Sentencing Hearing in Pennsylvania?

When it comes to criminal cases, people tend to focus on the trial itself. In fact, many people mistakenly believe that when a jury renders a guilty verdict, the case is over. This is not so. There are other hearings that occur after a defendant is found guilty, including a sentencing hearing.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled sometime after a defendant is found guilty. Sentencing hearings are not normally scheduled for right after a trial because there might be a presentence investigation. The court will arrange for a presentence report about the defendant, including details about their criminal history, the current case, and certain aggravating and mitigating factors.

This report will heavily influence the judge’s decision when handing down a sentence. While the sentencing hearing is not scheduled immediately after a guilty verdict, it is usually not too far behind. Talk to your lawyer if you feel you are being made to wait too long to be sentenced.

When handing down the sentence, the judge may consider numerous aspects of the case and your criminal record. Defendants with a longer criminal history might face harsher penalties. First-time offenders are more likely to be sentenced at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. The judge may also consider certain aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Penalties might increase if a gun or other weapon was used in the crime. If the defendant cooperated with the police and expressed deep remorse, the judge might exercise their discretion to show leniency.

Why is the Sentencing Hearing So Important in Pennsylvania?

Different criminal offenses have different sentencing requirements. A lot of information and evidence needs to be reviewed in order for a criminal sentence to be considered fair and just. This is why the sentencing hearing is so important in a criminal case. It forces courts to review the case to make the sentence fair and legal.

At the sentencing hearing, various factors about the case should be considered by the judge. For example, many crimes have different sentencing requirements if a firearm was used or if children were involved. A sentencing hearing might be lengthy in particularly complex cases where a defendant is found guilty of multiple charges with various sentencing requirements.

Perhaps most importantly, the sentencing hearing also allows defendants to fight for a fair sentence. If we believe certain information should not be considered, we can object. For example, the judge might want to impose a harsher sentence because the defendant has a prior conviction. However, if the prior conviction was decades ago, the defendant’s lawyer can argue the conviction is too remote and should not be considered. Hopefully, this will give the defendant a more lenient and fair sentence.

If objections during sentencing are overruled, we can make sure they are preserved for appeal. Tell your lawyer if you believe your sentence is unfair for any reason. A successful appeal might get you another chance at a new sentence or even a new trial, depending on what you want to have appealed.

What to Look Out for During a Sentencing Hearing in Pennsylvania

If you or someone you know is convicted of a criminal offense, there are certain things you should look out for during the sentencing hearing. First, check with your attorney about Pennsylvania’s sentencing guidelines. Sentencing that does not adhere to the guidelines should immediately raise big red flags. Judges usually need a very good reason to deviate from the guidelines. If they cannot provide one, start preparing your appeal immediately.

You should also pay close attention to the factors the judge considers when handing down the sentence. Sentencing based on information that should not have been considered in the first place should also be objected to or appealed.

Finally, know your due process rights. If the judge, prosecutor, or anyone else in the court violates procedural rules, your rights might be violated. If that is the case, the sentence might be invalid, illegal, unjust, or all of the above.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Sentencing Hearing in Pennsylvania?

People sometimes think that an attorney is not needed at a sentencing hearing. After all, you have already been convicted, so how much worse could things get? The answer is, a lot worse. Having a lawyer by your side is the best way to protect your rights and make sure your sentence, whatever it is, Is fair.

Not only that, but your lawyer is in a better position to appeal your sentence if they are actually present for the sentencing hearing. In fact, many attorneys begin the appeals process almost immediately, making things much easier for the client. It is extremely difficult to file an appeal from prison. Having a lawyer already on the case is ideal.

Speak to Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys for Support Now

To get a private case evaluation free of charge, call our Delaware County criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.