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The criminal justice process - Sentencing hearing

Following a guilty verdict or a guilty plea is a sentencing hearing. Learn more about the sentencing step of the criminal justice process.

A judge will impose a sentence on the defendant based on the sentencing guidelines. During this hearing, the victim and their loved ones have the right to provide a victim impact statement to the court.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled after a guilty verdict from a jury or through a guilty plea.

During sentencing, the court will:

  • Hear the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation.
  • Consider Victim Impact Statement(s).
  • Listen to defense and their sentencing recommendations, including statements from the defendant’s family and friends on behalf of the defendant.
  • Provide the defendant the right of allocution, allowing the defendant to speak directly to the court. 

The judge typically imposes a sentence within the standard sentencing range set by Washington State legislature, taking into consideration:

  • The prosecution and defense recommendations.
  • Any victim impact statements and statements on the defendant’s behalf.

The judge may also order restitution (for crime related costs sustained by the victim), fines, probation, jail or prison. It is not uncommon for the restitution to be ordered at a hearing date after the sentencing.

Watch the video: Criminal Justice Process: Sentencing and Post-Sentencing

Crime Victims

At sentencing, victims have a statutory right to provide a victim impact statement explaining how the crime impacted them before the judge enters the sentence. This may be provided in writing, or the
victim (or representative of their choosing) may speak directly to the judge during the sentencing hearing.