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What Will Happen During Sentencing?

Walker Law LLC Nov. 16, 2023

Judge in court room writing report judge hammerIf you are arrested under a criminal statute and go to trial and are convicted, or if you plead guilty, then the judge – not the jury if you were convicted by a panel of your peers – will decide upon your sentence. Judges are by limited by terms of the Missouri Courts to render three types of sentences: presumptive, or typical; mitigating; or aggravating. 

Presumptive refers to a sentence that the crime dictates under statute. Mitigating refers to factors that the defendant exhibited that may lessen the sentence, such as remorse or a first-time mistake. Aggravating involves defendants who are repeat or dangerous offenders, recidivists, or have shown no remorse. Indeed, all this leaves a lot of fertile legal ground for a judge to render a sentence. 

Of course, a lot depends on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. Under Missouri law, sentencing generally includes a fine, imprisonment, or some combination thereof. No court can impose a sentence that is not authorized by Missouri law.  

However, suspending a sentence, ordering probation, mandating community service, placing the defendant in a treatment or work release program, or ordering “shock incarceration” are all possible. Shock incarceration, or shock probation, generally involves 120 days of incarceration that includes evaluation, which can lead to a treatment program. 

If you are facing a criminal charge in or around Chesterfield, Missouri, and want to exercise your rights not only in trial but also in the sentencing phase, contact me at Walker Law LLC. Before commencing my criminal defense legal career, I worked in law enforcement, and I understand how the justice system works from both sides. I will fight compassionately for your rights and defend you through all phases of your legal ordeal, aiming for the best possible outcome.  

I also proudly represent clients in Town and Country and Cottleville and throughout St. Louis County and Charles County. 

Possible Sentences in Missouri for Misdemeanors and Felonies 

If you are being charged, you will generally face a misdemeanor or felony sentencing guideline if convicted or if pleading guilty or no contest. Felonies range from Class A to Class E, with A having the most serious consequences. Misdemeanors range from Class A to Class D, with A again being the most serious. 

For instance, a Class A felony conviction can land you in prison for 10 to 30 years, but fines are not authorized. A Class C is 3 to 10 years with a possible fine of up to $10,000. Class E ranges from 1 to 4 years with a possible fine of up to $10,000.  

A Class A misdemeanor can land you in jail for up to a year with a possible fine of up to $2,000. A Class C maxes out at 15 days in jail and a possible fine of up to $750. Class D is a fine only, not to exceed $500. An infraction is subject to a fine of up to $400. 

Sentencing Authority of the Courts 

As noted earlier, a judge cannot impose a sentence that is not authorized by statute, though the potential felony sentences listed above can be enhanced for persistent and/or dangerous offenders. That being said, a judge generally has five options in imposing a sentence: 

  • Sentencing the defendant to a term of jail/imprisonment pursuant to Missouri statutes 

  • Sentencing the defendant to pay a fine 

  • Suspending imposition of the sentence, with or without placing the defendant on probation 

  • Suspending execution of the sentence while placing the defendant on probation 

  • Ordering a period of shock incarceration (described earlier) and placing the defendant on probation 

Of course, a combination of sentences can be imposed. In certain circumstances, including jail or imprisonment, a fine, and potential probation afterwards. 

When Does Sentencing Take Place? 

If the case involves a misdemeanor, the judge will likely rule on the sentence at the end of the trial, but if it’s a felony that can involve incarceration, the judge may delay sentencing for days or even weeks. After that period, a sentencing hearing will take place. The judge will typically consider oral statements made during the hearing. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, the defendant, and the victim(s) all will be allowed to make statements. 

Prosecutors will typically cite aggravating factors in order to get a stiffer sentence, while defense attorneys will lean on mitigating factors to help reduce the sentence for the defendant. Defendants themselves have what is called the right of allocution to speak in their own defense. Victims can also speak out about how the crime has affected and changed their lives and argue for harsher sentencing. 

How Is the Sentence Determined? 

As noted earlier, judges, not juries determine sentences and impose sentences. In murder trials, however, juries may recommend whether the crime deserves the death penalty. A judge, as also noted, cannot impose a harsher sentence than allowed under the law, but he or she can enhance the sentence if the defendant is a repeat or dangerous offender. A judge can also consider mitigating factors in imposing the sentence, or in ordering probation or a treatment program. 

Understanding Your Next Steps if Charged 

If you’re facing a criminal charge in or around Chesterfield, Missouri, reach out to me immediately. Before the trial even begins, I can present your side of the story to prosecutors in an effort to get the charges lessened or even dropped. I can also work to get you a plea bargain or the alternative of a diversion program, depending on the crime being charged. 

In any event, contact me immediately at Walker Law LLC. Let’s work together on the best possible defensive strategy and, if necessary, on the best possible sentencing strategy. Your future is literally at stake.