Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sentencing in a criminal case: Reconsideration.

In the majority of criminal cases resulting in a guilty verdict (barring an appeal or other special proceeding) the final appearance in court is for sentencing of the Defendant. At sentencing the Defendant is permitted to make a statement, as are the victim and other interested parties. Normally, a pre-sentence investigation report is prepared by the probation office which has a recommendation for sentence based on certain statutory factors.

Following sentencing, in addition to appellate rights, the Defendant has the right to file a Petition for Reconsideration of Sentence within 10 days. This Petition goes back to the same Judge, so why would a Defendant want to ask for the sentence to be reconsidered? There are several possible reasons.

1. The Defense did not have available some documentation or important information to present to the Judge at the time of sentencing. The Judge's decision whether to review this additional documentation is discretionary, but in some cases could be important. For example, if the Defendant was unable to present evidence showing he or she had a current job at the time of sentencing and the Judge wasn't convinced by the Defendant's statement a Petition for Reconsideration could be filed asking the Judge to take notice of documentation proving that assertion (such as pay stubs or a letter from the employer).

2. The Court suggests an alternative sentence for which information to determine eligibility is not currently available. For example, if the Court sentences a Defendant to imprisonment but suggests that the client might qualify for work release or house arrest. Additional information to verify employment or home status might be required.

3. The Court or Probation computes the recommendation incorrectly. Sentencing in Pennsylvania is a three-step process. Offense Gravity Score, Prior Record Score, and any applicable Mandatory Minimums. If for whatever reason one of these steps is miscalculated the sentence can be corrected if the Petition is filed in time.

In a future post I'll cover what other factors are relevant at the time of sentencing as well as the appellate rights of the Defendant.

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