Sentencing procedures, next step in judicial process

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2007

The judicial process, many times depicted as a one-stop shop during the trial portion on television and in the movies, is a multifaceted, intricate process for defendants, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.

After the arrested and bond a person is faced with an optional preliminary hearing, grand jury and trial, involving pretrial motions. There are numerous avenues to resolving a case and many opportunities for plea-bargaining throughout the process leading to the last resort, a trial.

But though a case might make it to trial and the defendant be found guilty of the crime with which they are charged, a case is not resolved after the trial for those found guilty by a jury of their peers. If a case makes it that far it must then work its way through the sentencing process.

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Former defense attorney William Coplin said the reports assess the person’s record and reputation in the community presenting a recommendation on the person’s likelihood of becoming a repeat offender. He said the report is important for lowering the sentence of a defendant that has had a relatively clean record and is of good community standing prior to the crime for which they were found guilty. Griggers said the report, once it is complied is sent to the defense attorney, judge and prosecutor prior to the sentencing hearing.

Griggers said besides the sentencing guidelines, judges are also presented with a recommended sentence from the district attorney for each case. He said a district attorney’s suggested sentence differs from case to case depending on the request of the victims or the victim’s family and what plea-bargains have been offered to the defendant prior to the case going to trial.

Griggers said in the end the sentence is at the judge’s discretion and done on a case-by-case basis. However, he said the judge generally hands down a sentence in the same ballpark as what is requested.