The Dual System of Guilt Determination and Sentencing

When most people think of the criminal justice system they envision a lowly defendant standing before an all powerful judge or magistrate who decides their fate. While it’s true that the judge does hold a lot of power over the defendant there are a couple of things that come into play before a judge ultimately gets to the point of making a decision as to how the defendant will be punished, and there are also restraints on what types of punishments can be imposed. There are two phases in criminal procedure the first is the guilt determination phase and the second is sentencing, if the defendant is found not guilty then the second phase never comes into play.

The Process of Determining Guilt

There are two main ways that the guilty determination phase of a criminal proceeding is concluded. The first is probably the most common and that is with the defendant pleading guilty, this could be in conjunction with a plea agreement with the prosecutor. The second way is by a trial, and the trial could either be a bench trial, meaning a judge makes the guilt determination or a jury trial, where a jury does that job. Either way the trial ends in the defendant being pronounced guilty or not guilty. Once guilt is determined then the judge does the sentencing, neither the jury nor the prosecutor do sentencing it is only conducted by the judge. However, the judge will ask for recommendations as to what the sentence should be from the prosecutor, from defense counsel, and sometimes from a third party such as a probation provider.

Utah Criminal Defense Attorney | Arguing Your Case at Sentencing

Sentencing is one of the most important parts of the criminal justice process for most defendants because it determines what kinds of constraints you will have on your life and freedom going forward. It’s important that you let the judge know about the important factors in your case that could reduce the gravity of your sentencing. The best way to do this is by hiring competent legal counsel to help find the relevant facts that the judge will find persuasive. Call Salcido Law Firm for this type of help in your case, we offer free consultations and can answer your questions about your case.

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