I Have Been Charged With a Misdemeanor, Now What? (Step 5, Sentencing)
If you have been given a citation, arrested, or served with a summons for a misdemeanor offense, you probably want to know what is going to happen next. If you have never been charged with a crime it is totally understandable to be confused and concerned about the immediate consequences, and if you have been through “the system” before, understanding the rules and procedures of a misdemeanor case will enable you to properly exercise your rights. These articles were written to highlight and explain the procedure through which misdemeanor cases are processed in the limited jurisdiction courts.
“I Have Been Charged With a Misdemeanor, Now What?“
If a defendant pleads guilty at the change of plea hearing or is found guilty at trial, the judge will generally proceed straight to sentencing. A defendant does have a right right to wait seven (7) days before being sentenced, but in most cases usually will proceed with sentencing immediately.
After a trial, the judge will have the most discretion in the sentencing of the defendant. The judge is only restricted by the statutory limits of the class of misdemeanor of the defendant's conviction. Most serious class 1 misdemeanors have a restriction of up to six (6) months in jail or up to a $2,500 fine and any other term of probation the judge finds appropriate. A defendant, for example might be ordered to participate in counseling, community work service, have no contact with any victims, or report to a probation officer.
If a defendant pleads guilty under the terms of a stipulated plea agreement, the judge must decide whether to accept the sentencing limitations or reject the limitations under the plea agreement. If a judge does restrict the limitations, the defendant will be given the opportunity to withdraw the guilty plea. Usually the plea agreement substantially reduces the exposure of any possible sentence, whether it is an agreed upon predetermined sentence or a limitation of the sentence range (jail time, fine etc.).
Both parties will present arguments on suggested sentencing to give the defendant. A prosecutor may give reasons for why any sentencing limitation under the plea agreement is appropriate or argue as to what sentence or punishment is appropriate. The views of the victim and circumstances of the case are usually presented to support these arguments. Defense counsel will usually present and argue facts in mitigation to persuade the judge to give the most lenient and appropriate sentence possible.
The judge will then render sentence. If ordered to pay a fine a defendant can make arrangements with the court to make payments (with a $20 time payment fee imposed). If ordered to serve jail time, the judge will give credit for any time served, and give a date for the defendant to report to jail. Most defendants are given summary probation and do not have to report to a probation officer. For some serious cases or repeat offender, a defendant may be ordered to report to a probation officer under supervised probation following the sentencing.