What Happens at a Felony Sentencing Hearing in California?
When you are convicted of a felony, it does not mean that your case is over. The next step is receiving your sentence. This will occur at a felony sentencing hearing.
At your sentencing hearing, the prosecution is likely to argue for a harsh sentence. That is why you need an aggressive criminal defense lawyer fighting for you at your sentencing hearing.
How Long After the Trial Will My Felony Sentencing Hearing Be Held?
Under California Penal Code Section 1191, a felony sentencing hearing must take place within 20 days of your conviction. This can be extended by up to 10 days if any of the following circumstances are true:
- You are considering filing a motion for a new trial
- The court is awaiting a probation recommendation from the local probation department, OR
- The court is determining whether you are insane
California Penal Code Scion 1272 spells out three different options the court has when determining what to do with you during the period between the ruling in your case and your sentencing hearing. Those three options are to:
- Keep you in custody until the hearing
- Order you into custody until the hearing, or
- Let you remain out of custody on bail
Generally, if you are out of custody at the time you are convicted of a felony, you are likely to be remanded to custody.
What Happens at a Felony Sentencing Hearing?
At a sentencing hearing, you have the right to:
- Attend the hearing
- Be represented by an attorney
- Make a statement to the court
- Present evidence of mitigating factors and witnesses on your behalf, and
- Suggest an alternative sentence, such as probation instead of jail or prison
The judge will determine your sentence based upon the circumstances of your case. If you agreed to a plea bargain, your sentence will be determined according to the terms of your agreement. If you were found guilty at trial, the court has broad discretion when determining your sentence.
The judge will consider whether you are eligible for probation under California Rules of Court 4.414. The court will consider the nature of the offense and your prior criminal conduct when determining your probation eligibility. If the court rules that you are eligible for a split sentence, you will serve part of your sentence in custody, then be released to serve the remainder of your sentence on felony probation.
If the court cannot grant you probation, the judge will sentence you to one of the three terms of imprisonment under California Penal Code Section 1170, unless the penalty for your crime carries a life sentence or the death penalty.
The three terms that you could face for a felony include a lower term, middle term and upper term. The judge will consider the circumstances of your case and your past history to determine which sentencing term is best suited for you.
Should I Prepare Evidence for a Felony Sentencing Hearing?
As part of the felony sentencing process, the court will ask for a report from a probation officer, who will review your case and your criminal history. The report will be sent to both the prosecution and your defense attorney.
Under California Penal Code Section 1203, your attorney will then be able to prepare a Statement of Mitigation for the court to consider at sentencing. The Statement of Mitigation will explain to the court why the mitigating factors in your case should lead to you facing probation or a lighter sentence. It is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney prepare this Statement of Mitigation because the prosecution will also have a chance to argue for a harsh sentence.
“Mitigating factors” are facts or circumstances about your case that the judge should consider when determining your sentence. Mitigating factors could include:
- You have no prior criminal record
- You have a mental or physical illness
- You were provoked
- You showed genuine remorse for your actions
The prosecution will present aggravating factors, which are facts that could add to your sentence. For instance, if you have a prior record or committed the crime through the use of a firearm, the prosecution will call attention to those facts in order to increase the penalties against you.
Should I Apologize at a Sentencing Hearing?
At your felony sentencing hearing, you will have the option to make a statement. Making a powerful statement could convince the judge to be more lenient in your sentence, but you need to consider the circumstances of your case when deciding whether to make a statement.
If you testified at trial that you did not commit the crime, showing remorse for your actions may not benefit you at all. However, you may want to highlight your otherwise good behavior in your statement.
Work with an experienced felony sentencing attorney to craft a strong statement.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
A felony conviction could result in serious punishment against you. That is why it is important for you to hire an experienced sentencing attorney to try to help you get the most favorable sentence possible.
At Wallin & Klarich, our firm has over 40 years of experience successfully representing clients at felony sentencing hearings. Our skilled lawyers will work hard to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.