A Look at Sentencing Hearings in Indiana

What Happens At a Sentencing Hearing in Indiana?

There are many situations where someone can be facing a sentencing hearing. Sentencing hearings typically happen after a trial or plea when a person has already been determined guilty, or after a violation of probation has been determined and the next step is to argue the potential sentence a person must serve. A sentencing hearing is one of the most important stages of any criminal proceeding as it is often a person’s last effort to show a judge the responsibilities and struggles that person is dealing with in a plea for leniency. If you find yourself in a situation where you have a pending sentencing hearing for a criminal case or a violation of probation, you need help from the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower to help you out.

Sentencing Hearings for a Criminal Case

There are multiple avenues to reach a sentencing hearing in a criminal proceeding. Whether it is after a trial where there was a guilty finding or there was a plea of guilty with sentencing left “open” to the judge, the sentencing hearing is similar in both situations.

After a person has been determined guilty by a jury, judge, or plea with “open” sentencing, the sentencing hearing occurs where the judge determines what type of sentence they think the individual deserves based upon the facts of the case. See below for the potential ranges a person likely faces given the level of crime they were determined to be guilty of:

The sentencing hearing is the person’s chance to give the judge an opportunity to view the person’s situation through their shoes. Often times, after a long trial or hearing the factual basis to a plea, a judge is pretty close to making up their mind as to what they believe the sentence should be. A good trial attorney can persuasively describe the responsibilities and struggles of an individual in an attempt to get some leniency from the judge. Whether it is a drug or alcohol addictiveness issue where if the person could just get an opportunity to go to a rehabilitation facility, they would not be in the situation they are currently in; or it may be a situation where the person is in a rough spot financially where they just lost their job and have to provide for a sick parent, have multiple dependents, or just in a desperate financial situation; you really need someone that can convincingly sell your story. At Banks & Brower law firm, our attorneys have handled thousands of sentencing hearings for more than 15 years and have the experience needed to persuasively sell your story.

Additionally, it is extremely helpful, and that much more persuasive, if you have any documentation to help your cause. This can be anything from a doctor’s letter corroborating drug and alcohol dependency issues to having a parent or spouse testify as to their level of dependency on the person being sentenced. Any attorney can go up to the stand and vouch for someone, only an attorney with the right experience and capabilities knows what is and is not helpful to a judge in their determination.

Sentencing Hearings for a Violation of Probation

Briefly, what happens at a violation of probation proceeding is the probation officer brings the violation of probation to the judge and gives the reason for the violation. A person can be charged with a violation for anything from a positive drug screen or missed probation appointment to having new charges being brought against the person for a separate case. At the hearing, the probation officer only needs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the violation occurred. This standard is a step lower than the standard beyond a reasonable doubt that is required at trial. Therefore, it is not difficult to prove if there is evidence of the violation and it is often difficult to argue against a positive drug screen or a new case being brought against the person.

Once the violation has been proven or admitted to, the probation officer makes a recommendation of the type of sentence the judge should make. This recommendation can be anything from a continuation of probation with more strict terms or the full back up time. Back up time is the amount of time that was suspended from the previous sentence. For instance, say you were convicted of possession of marijuana as a class B misdemeanor and were sentenced to a year of probation with 180 days suspended. If you were to violate probation, you could be facing up 180 days in jail. The county the case is out of, your criminal history, and how you performed while on probation will all factor into the probation officer’s recommendation and ultimately, what the judge decides.

As explained above, you are going to need an attorney that can effectively explain to the judge your story. This is even more important in a violation of probation hearing since the judge knows they have already granted the person leniency once by putting them on probation instead of incarceration! For a more detailed explanation of the entire process of a violation of probation proceedings, click here.

As anyone can see, having an experienced attorney with you for a sentencing or violation of probation hearing is a necessity. An experienced attorney can walk you through the options and can explain the solutions. If you or a loved one are facing a pending or potential criminal case, call the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC today at (317) 870-0019 or email us at info@banksbrower.com.