In circuit court, the time between a guilty plea and sentencing is one of the most critical stages of a criminal proceeding. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the sentencing phase in Kentucky state courts as well as some strategies our attorneys implement to give our clients the best chance during final sentencing.
In Kentucky state court, you are usually looking at four (4) to six (6) weeks between a felony guilty plea/guilty verdict and your final sentencing hearing. If you are out on bond during this time (not in jail), think of this time as an audition for the Judge and Probation & Parole to see if you are a good candidate for probation.
It is extremely important not to pick up any new charges and obey all bond conditions. A new criminal charge or bond violation could severely deter any hope at probation during sentencing.
Pre-Sentence Investigative Report (“PSI”)
In the days following your guilty plea, you’ll be given a questionnaire and instructions to schedule an interview with the probation and parole office. Both the questionnaire and interview are used to complete a Pre-Sentence Investigative Report (“PSI”).
Using your answers to the questionnaire and interview, the probation officer will complete the PSI for the Judge’s consideration in making a determination at sentencing. At the conclusion of the PSI, the probation officer will give a recommendation on whether you are an acceptable candidate for probation or not.
The PSI and extensive and includes: work history, criminal history, family background, educational background, an optional statement about the case from the defendant, a statement about the case from law enforcement, and medical conditions. While answering the questionnaire, if you have any questions, please consult with your attorney prior to submitting your response.
It’s very important to make a good impression with your probation officer in charge of completing the PSI report for the judge. Remember, the probation officer will ultimately make a recommendation to the judge whether or not you are an appropriate candidate for probation.
- Arrive 15 minutes early for the PSI interview.
- Have your questionnaire filled out completely upon arriving.
- Make sure you dress to impress.
- Most importantly, be respectful and courteous at all times to your probation officer during the interview.
It should come as no surprise, Judges love for Defendants to have a job. Of course, this does not apply to those that are disabled and physically unable to work.
However, if you are able-body, Judges want you working and/or going to school full-time. The reasoning is simple – Judge want productive members of society that are able to legally provide for themselves and/or their families.
People with less free time are less likely to commit crimes. A job provides structure, time management skills, responsibility, and a sense of self-worth.
It doesn’t matter what type of job you have. Whether you are in construction, food industry, landscaping, or factory work, it doesn’t matter.
Any job is better than no job when it comes to putting yourself in the best position possible at sentencing. If you are pending sentencing, get a job!
Letters to the Judge
Prior to sentencing, it’s important for the Judge to learn about the real you – not just another criminal defendant in the courtroom. Letters to the judge from those closest to you can shed some light into the person you are away from the courtroom and potentially why you are in this position. Letters can be from anyone including parents, siblings, employers, teachers, church members etc.
The purpose of the letters can vary. Family members can explain how they will support the defendant if given the opportunity for probation. Employers can discuss how valuable the defendant is to their company. Friends can describe the circumstances related to why the defendant is in this position. A wife can detail how important the defendant is to her family.
At the Baldani Law Group, we tell our clients to submit all letters to our office at least one week prior to sentencing. We will organize the letters, make copies, and personally deliver the letters to the Judge, along with a sentencing memorandum.
Sentencing Memorandum/Alternative Sentencing Plan
A sentencing memorandum or alternative sentencing lays the blueprint for the Judge to anticipate your attorney’s arguments during the final sentencing hearing. While not mandatory, our attorneys at Baldani Law Group routinely submit sentencing memorandums and motions for probation. It is our priority to give our clients the best opportunity to get a favorable outcome during sentencing. Surprisingly, many attorneys don’t file these and merely rely on arguments.
In every sentencing, there are different goals. The severity of the charges, the Defendant’s criminal history, and pre-sentence investigative report play a large part in the Judge’s decision-making process. The two main decisions the Judge will make during sentencing are: (1) Whether to run the charges consecutive (one after the other) or concurrent (at the same time); and (2) Whether to send the Defendant to prison or allow the Defendant the opportunity of probation.
Consecutive vs. Concurrent
If a Defendant is facing multiple charges, a Judge can run those charges consecutively, meaning one after the other, or concurrently, meaning all at the same time. This can make a huge difference in the length of time a defendant must serve.
For example, if a Defendant pleads guilty to Wanton Endangerment 1st Degree – 3 years and Tampering with Physical Evidence – 3 years the Judge will have to decide at sentencing whether those charges shall run consecutive or concurrent. The Judge also has the ability to run some of the sentence concurrent, while another part consecutive. In this situation, the Judge has the discretion to sentence the Defendant anywhere from 3 to 6 years.
Probation allows defendants to serve their time in the community while being supervised by the Division of Probation and Parole. In most cases, defendants request probation to avoid going to prison. Standard conditions of probation include:
- Random drug testing
- Full-time employment and/or full-time school
- Community Service
- Monthly probation fees
- No new violations of the law
If a Defendant violates a term of his/her probation, he/she will face graduated sanctions including jail time. If the violation is serious enough, the Judge can revoke the Defendant’s probation order him/her to serve the original sentence in prison.
When your freedom is on the line, you can the experienced attorneys at Baldani Law Group will do everything possible to give you the best possible result at sentencing. If you have a sentencing question, please give us a call at (859) 259-0727.