Offender Giving Testimony to Judge in Court

What to Expect During Sentencing

Venessa Bornost, P.A.  Sept. 26, 2023

If you’re arrested and charged for committing a crime in Florida, you must trudge through the criminal court process to determine your fate. However, if you plead guilty, no contest, or if the judge or jury determines that you’re guilty of the allegations at trial, a pre-sentence investigation will be conducted before a sentencing hearing. At the sentencing, the judge will listen to arguments, review mitigating or aggravating evidence, and issue the appropriate penalty or sentence for the crime. 

At Venessa Bornost, P.A., I proudly guide and represent clients in their criminal cases. As a dedicated Florida criminal defense attorney, I can review the conditions of your case, gather substantial evidence to establish mitigation and help you achieve the best possible outcome at the sentencing hearing. My firm proudly serves clients across Dunedin, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County, Florida. 

What Is a Sentence?

A sentence is a punishment, penalty, or legal consequence that a judge imposes on a defendant who has pleaded guilty, no contest, or has been found guilty at trial. However, before a judge can sentence a defendant in Florida, the case will be referred to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) to carry out a pre-sentence investigation. 

The Pre-Sentence Investigation in Florida

A pre-sentence investigation (PSI) involves a detailed report and recommendation about the full background, criminal history, or record of a defendant made by the Department of Corrections. The purpose of the PSI is to help the judge make informed decisions about sentencing. Based on the report submitted by the FDC, the judge may decide to issue a lesser or harsher punishment. 

What Does the Pre-Sentence Investigation Show?

Additionally, the pre-sentence investigation will show the following: 

  • The surrounding circumstances of the offense, including how and why the defendant committed the crime. 

  • The offender’s criminal history/record and possibility of repeating the offense. 

  • The defendant’s education and employment history. 

  • The defendant’s physical and mental health history. 

  • The defendant’s family background and character references. 

Once the FDC presents all information to the court, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled. 

When Does Sentencing Occur?

The court will sentence an offender after they’re convicted of misdemeanor or felony charges. However, when sentencing occurs will depend on different factors. In cases where there is an agreed-upon sentence between the defendant and the prosecutor – in the form of a plea bargain – sentencing may occur immediately. 

Conversely, if there is a need to conduct a pre-sentence investigation, sentencing may occur at a later date, usually a couple of weeks after trial. It is up to the judge’s discretion to determine whether to allow the defendant to post bail or keep them in custody until the sentencing hearing. 

What Happens During Sentencing?

Additionally, the sentencing hearing gives the defendant and their attorney another opportunity to get a reduced sentence. The judge will read the terms and provisions of the sentence into the record. Also, the defense counsel will make arguments and present mitigating evidence and witnesses to support their position. The defendant’s attorney can also recommend a sentencing alternative to the judge. 

Likewise, the defense counsel will present evidence and testimonies from the victims or their family members. This is to support their position that the defendant should receive a severe penalty. The judge will also review the pre-sentence investigation report submitted by the FDC. Based on the sentencing guidelines and other applicable statutes, the judge will determine whether to impose a maximum or minimum sentence on the offender. 

How Is the Sentence Determined?

As mentioned earlier, the judge will consider Florida’s sentencing guidelines for the offense and other factors to decide the right sentence. Mitigating factors such as showing remorse or cooperating with the police and aggravating factors will be considered. Also, the judge will evaluate the available evidence, the defendant’s criminal record, the pre-sentence investigation report, and the seriousness of the crime. 

At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the judge will make a decision. If you’re a first-time offender, the judge may issue a lesser sentence. Conversely, if you’re a habitual offender, you may likely receive a stern punishment. Regardless of the decision, the judge must place, on the record, the reasons for the sentence. 

Don’t Face the Law Without Understanding Your Next Steps

Despite you and your defense attorney’s best efforts, the surrounding circumstances and facts of your case may still result in a guilty verdict. Nevertheless, getting skilled guidance and representation from a reliable criminal defense attorney is imperative to achieve a reduced sentence. 

At Venessa Bornost, P.A., I’m committed to protecting clients facing criminal charges from the worst-case scenario. As your attorney, I can represent you intelligently at the sentencing hearing, present mitigating evidence, and attempt to convince the judge to issue a lesser penalty. Above all, I will fight for your rights and help you achieve the most favorable outcome in your case. 

Contact me at Venessa Bornost, P.A., today to schedule a simple case assessment with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. I have the comprehensive representation you need during your sentencing. My firm proudly serves clients across Dunedin, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County, Florida.