A sentence is any type of penalty imposed by the court. Technically, a
sentence is imposed whether you are found guilty at trial or accept a
plea of guilty or no contest.
But for purposes of this discussion, "sentencing" will refer
to a penalty imposed by the court upon a finding of guilt. Sentencing
varies depending on a wide array of factors. Some charges permit the judge
to exercise discretion.
All DUIs have mandatory sentences. The severity of the sentence depends
on whether it is your
second DUI, or third DUI and beyond. Typically, a fourth DUI and higher is a
felony DUI. Sentences for DUI will also depend on whether there was a high blow (enhanced DUI).
For most other misdemeanors, the judge can sentence based on what they
believe is fair. Judges may or may not impose jail time. This depends
on the severity of the offense, and the accused's prior record. The
judge does have the ability to sentence a defendant to the maximum allowed by law.
The judge may also sentence on multiple counts concurrently (sentences
run together) or consecutively (sentences run one after the other). For
misdemeanors, sentencing will occur right after trial. For felonies, sentencing
will usually occur weeks after the verdict so that the Department of Corrections
can do a pre-sentence investigation. This is a tool that helps the judge
decide on a fair and just sentence.
The judge will also consider the defendant's priors, severity of the
offense, and the sentencing guidelines. If the defendant is a
habitual violent offender (HVO), or
prison releasee reoffender (PRRP), the judge will impose a mandatory prison term depending on the
charge. If the accused is a
habitual offender, the judge may go below guidelines and impose a lesser sentence than is
When a judge goes below guidelines, this is known as a
downward departure. Most criminal attorneys will make motions for downward departure during
At sentencing, both the State and
Miami-Dade County criminal defense attorney will make argument as to what the sentence should be. The court may hear
testimony from the alleged victim(s), police officers, and character witnesses
for the defendant. If this is a murder or manslaughter case, the court
will hear from the next of kin.
This is allowed by law and is called a victim impact statement. In the
end, considering all facts and relevant law, the court will pronounce
sentence. A defendant may always appeal a sentence if he or she believes
it was imposed contrary to the law. Eric Matheny is a criminal defense
lawyer who serves Miami-Dade and Broward.
Call today to discuss your case.