How Long Does Sentencing Take After a Conviction or a Guilty Plea?
In a felony court, you are going to be coming back in at least 30 days. Occasionally, you can get an expedited sentencing within a couple of weeks. If it’s a low-level offense with no expected criminal history, then they can just run a short criminal history instead of doing a full pre-sentence report. But in most cases, the judge wants a full pre-sentence report. It usually takes about 30 days to prepare that and get it to the judge.
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If my Sentence Includes Incarceration Will i be Sent to Prison Immediately?
If the judge decides as part of your probation term that you’re going to be sentenced to jail, then they’ll typically take you into custody at that time. If the plea agreement calls for a stipulated jail term, then the jail term usually won’t be served until the sentencing date. But if you sign up for a plea that requires you to go to prison, then the law in Arizona requires that you go into custody at the time you take the plea. Even if your sentencing isn’t for 30 days, you’ll be in jail or awaiting sentencing for those 30 days. You’ll get credit for any time that you’re doing in jail, but that’s how that process works.
What Does a Judge Consider When Determining a Sentence?
Arizona is a strict state when it comes to sentencing. There are sentencing guidelines for every type and every level of offense. There are also sentencing guidelines that apply to certain circumstances, such as whether an offense was pled or found guilty with one or more priors or a felony conviction. Depending on the plea agreement and the proof of prior felony convictions, there will be some type of range that is given. We normally refer to it as a super aggravated range. In the middle of the range is the presumptive term. So, a judge starts every sentencing determination with regards to prison at the presumptive term. If the state argues successfully for legal aggravators, then the judge can sentence above the presumptive term. If we effectively argue for mitigating circumstances, then the judge can sentence below the presumptive term.
The presumptive term is always the starting point for a judge. A lot of times, aggravators and mitigators just weigh each other out, leaving you stuck at the presumptive term.
Can Both Sides Testify at a Sentencing Hearing?
Both sides usually testify at a sentencing hearing. A representative for the victim (like a family member or a close friend) can speak or read something on the victim’s behalf. Oftentimes, the prosecutor will do that as well. I’ve had family members, friends and employers come in to speak on the defendant’s behalf. Ultimately, we’re just trying to make sure that whatever they’re going to say is helpful or useful to the judge, and not just irrelevant or unrelated to what we’re trying to accomplish.
What Measures Can Someone Take After a Conviction or Guilty Plea to Mitigate Sentencing?
Depending on the type of case, being able to tell the judge that you’ve already taken action on your own whether it’s counseling for substance abuse issues, domestic violence issues or anger management issues are useful. In many cases, like those involving DUIs or domestic violence, the sentences are basically determined by law, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room. Doing a lot of extra steps and hoping that the sentence is going to be reduced probably isn’t all that productive. But doing those things is still useful and helpful in just improving my client’s lives, so I encourage them to do so.
The only time I’ll tell them to hold off on taking those kinds of steps is if I’m aware that the court’s going to order certain counseling or classes. In that case, I’ll tell my clients not to duplicate those things at the cost of themselves, because they’re ultimately going to have to do it through the court (and therefore pay for it again).
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