After the presentence report is completed, a sentencing hearing is held.
At this hearing, the court considers the evidence received at trial, the presentence report, any evidence offered by either party in aggravation or mitigation of sentence, and any statement the defendant wishes to make.
Most jurisdictions require judges to hear arguments concerning various sentencing alternatives.
Sentencing is a “critical stage” of the criminal process, and counsel must be supplied to indigent defendants .
Statutory Approaches to Sentencing Indeterminate Sentencing: Judges sentence offenders to prison for unspecified periods. Corrections officials determine how long offender is held. Determinate Sentencing: Judges impose sentences within a range of minimum and maximum penalties. No possibility of early release . Indefinite Sentencing : Judges impose sentences within a range of prescribed minimum and maximum penalties. Early release from prison possible. Definite Sentencing : Sentence set by the legislature with no leeway for judges or corrections officials to individualize punishment .
Punishments for Felonies under Texas Law Level of Crime Punishments Examples of Crimes Capital Felony Death or life imprisonment Capital murder First-Degree Felony Life imprisonment or 5--99 years and max. fine $10,000 Felony murder Aggravated sexual assault Armed robbery Theft ($200,000 or more) Second Degree Felony 2-20 years and max. fine $10,000 Aggravated kidnapping Theft ($100,000 or more) Robbery Third Degree Felony 2-10 years and max. fine $10,000 Involuntary manslaughter Theft (under $20,000) Aggravated perjury
By the end of 1998, 27 states and the District of Columbia required violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentences, up from 5 states in 1993.
Another 13 states have adopted laws requiring violent offenders to serve a substantial portion of their sentence before being eligible for release.
As a result, about 70 percent of prison admissions for a violent offense in 1997 were in states requiring offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence and more than 90 percent were in states requiring at least 50 percent of the sentence to be served.
In most instances where defendants are convicted of noncapital crimes, courts are authorized to suspend the imposition of sentence and place defendants on probation or under community control for some determinate period.
Statutes often require courts to impose certain conditions on a defendant whose sentence is suspended.
Of course, if the defendant violates conditions set by the court, the original sentence may be imposed.
When the trial court sentences a defendant to incarceration, it generally allows the defendant credit against any term of incarceration for all time spent in custody as a result of the charge for which sentence is imposed.
“ The 8th Amendment’s ban on inflicting cruel and unusual punishments ‘proscribes more than physically barbarous punishments.’ It prohibits penalties that … transgress today's ‘broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.’ Confinement in a prison … is a form of punishment subject to scrutiny under 8th Amendment standards.”
-- Justice John P. Stevens, writing for the Supreme Court in Hutto v. Finney (1978)
“ Conditions in prison must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, nor may they…deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.... But conditions that cannot be said to be cruel and unusual under contemporary standards are not unconstitutional. To the extent that such conditions are restrictive and even harsh, they are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.”
Justice Lewis Powell, writing for the Supreme Court in Rhodes v. Chapman (1981)
Prisoners have to first exhaust the prison’s grievance procedure before filing a lawsuit. If a prisoner files suit before exhausting prison’s grievance procedures, the suit is likely to be dismissed.
Prisoners have to pay their own court filing fees. If they don’t have the money for these fees up front, you can pay the filing fee over a period of time by having monthly installments taken out of their prison commissary account. Court filing fees will, however, not be waived.
300,000 male prisoners are raped or sexually assaulted each year (compared with 240,000 women raped or sexually assaulted outside prison).
22% of prisoners have been the victims of prison rape.
Prisoners have nearly six times the AIDS-infection rate of the population as a whole.
In Farmer v. Brennan (1994), the Supreme Court ruled that deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of sexual assault violates prisoners' rights under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
In Trop v. Dulles (1958), Chief Justice Warren indicated that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”
By the 1960s, it was clear that public support for the death penalty had diminished substantially.
By 1966, public opinion polls were finding that a majority of Americans opposed capital punishment.
Reflecting this change in societal attitudes, only two persons were executed in the United States between 1967 and the Supreme Court’s decision in Furman v. Georgia (1972), which struck down the Georgia death penalty law.
In a 1990 report, the U.S. General Accounting Office concluded that available research demonstrated “a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.…”
Similarly, in 1994, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights concluded that members of racial minorities were being disproportionately prosecuted under the federal death penalty law.
In Ford v. Wainwright (1986), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment bars the execution of a person who is insane.
Writing for a plurality of justices, Justice Thurgood Marshall declared that “It is no less abhorrent today than it has been for centuries to exact in penance the life of one whose mental illness prevents him from comprehending the reasons for the penalty or its implications.”
The 8th and 14th Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed.
“ It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime. … The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions.”
“ Mental retardation is a factor that may well lessen a defendant’s culpability for a capital offense. But we cannot conclude today that the Eighth Amendment precludes the execution of any mentally retarded person ... simply by virtue of his or her mental retardation. So long as sentencers can consider and give effect to mitigating evidence of mental retardation in imposing sentence, an individualized determination whether ‘death is the appropriate punishment’ can be made in each particular case.”
“ It is not so much the number of these states that is significant, but the consistency of the direction of change. . . . [There is] powerful evidence that today our society views mentally retarded offenders as categorically less culpable than the average criminal.”