04. Sentencing Day
"If ever a man is to receive credit for the good he has done, and his immediate misconduct assessed in the context of his overall life hitherto, it should be at the moment of his sentencing, when his very future hangs in the balance. This elementary principle of weighing the good with the bad, which is basic to all the great religious, moral philosophies, and systems of justice, was plainly part of what Congress had in mind when it directed courts to consider, as a necessary sentencing factor, the history and characteristics of the defendant."
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff July 20, 2006 at sentencing of Richard Adelson
As much as you might like to be in control of things, Sentencing Day is not one of those days. Sentencing is a challenging day for everyone because you only get to do this once and it has to be done correctly. Your lawyer, the prosecutor and the judge will all interact during the proceeding while you are mostly a spectator. While some parts of the proceeding may seem formal and redundant, the procedure is meant to assure that there are no open issues and that the judge has all the information needed to make a fair sentence. The end result is that you will receive a prison term, probation or a combination of both.
To determine a sentence, federal judges use guidelines established by the United States Sentencing Commission. The USSC is an independent agency in the judicial branch of government.
Every defendant is nervous on sentencing day because it is life altering. No matter how much you prepare, the entire event just seems surreal as your attorney, prosecutors and people who work at the courthouse seem to be going through their daily routine on a day when your day is anything but routine. Some federal sentence hearings last hours, most under an hour. In the end, the judge is going to give you one or a combination of the following; a prison term, supervised release term, fine or restitution.
Prior to sentencing, defendants and prosecutors submit a Sentencing Memorandum. These documents support each parties’ position that they want the judge to consider during sentencing. As a general rule, prosecutors’ memorandums outline the crime, the amount of money (drugs) involved, and present a recommendation for a prison term that is either the same or higher than that recommended in the PSR. Defense memorandums provide a more personal view of the defendant and recommend a prison term lower than that presented in the PSR. The judge will consider the PSR and the respective sentencing memorandums in her decision.