Once you have been convicted of a crime, the next step is sentencing. You will appear before the judge, who will ask you a few basic questions, and then you will be given an opportunity to address the court. It is tempting to think that once you have been convicted nothing you do or say can affect your fate, but your conduct at the sentencing hearing can lead to a much harsher or lighter punishment.
Sentencing hearings are more informal than trials or plea hearings. You have already been found guilty, depriving you of many of your procedural rights. Further, the rules of evidence do not apply at sentencing; the judge is free to consider hearsay testimony and other evidence that would have been inadmissible at trial.
The judge will consider many factors, attempting to gauge whether you pose a substantial risk to society. The following are a few of the more important considerations:
It is important to have a lawyer present for your sentencing. Defense attorneys know how judges calculate sentences, allowing them to plead for mercy more effectively. The state will be represented by a prosecutor; you need to ensure that a lawyer is in the courtroom to represent your interests.