January 19, 2014
Sara Spivey, M.A.
Sentences for crimes committed have been handed down for as long as there have been crimes to commit. There are many factors to be considered by the judge tasked with sentencing in a criminal case, including an offender’s criminal history and actual involvement in the commission of the offense. First-time offenders may be grated leniency in sentencing, but it can be argued that such a practice is contrary to the nature of punishment and detracts from the effects of the crime on the victims. Punishment serves three general purposes that serve to benefit the victim, the public, and the offender: retribution, prevention, and rehabilitation.
The big house, slammer, the joint, and the gray bar hotel. These are all euphemisms for jail or prison. Criminal proceedings often times end in some form of incarceration, fines or restitution, or even death. The public reads in the news that another offender has been sentenced to a number of years behind bars, but how much is involved in handing down that sentence? How is the offender’s sentence determined, including what he or she must pay or how long he or she will be incarcerated? Is a first time offense considered when making the decision? And what is the purpose of going to jail and being punished for committing a crime? When the sentencing phase of a criminal trial has begun, the judge will look at several factors when considering the sentence of a criminal offender. The State’s Penal Code will have guidelines for maximum and minimum sentences that can be imposed for specific crimes which will help guide the judge in making his or her decision. The defense attorney can also bring up certain points on behalf of the offender that may persuade the judge to impose a more lenient sentence. Such factors may be whether or not the offender has previously served...
References: Escamilla-Castillo, M. (2010). The purposes of legal punishment. Ratio Juris, 23(4), 460-478. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9337.2010.00465.x
Freer, E. (2013). First time lucky? Exploring whether first-time offenders should be sentenced more leniently. Journal of Criminal Law, 77(2), 163-171. doi:10.1350/jcla.2013.77.2.834
NOLO (2014). What factors do judges use in determining sentences? Retrieved January 18, 2014, from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-criminal-sentencing-works-faq-29149-4.html
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