Criminal Law

Who Sets a Sentence, and How's It Determined?

By Janet Portman, Attorney
Politicians and judges are involved in sentencing.

A sentence is the punishment for a specific criminal act. In some states, the legislature sets a specific sentence for each crime, such as ten years for an armed robbery. In other states, the legislature specifies a range of time, like two, three, or four years, for each crime; the judge then chooses the appropriate sentence, based on the defendant’s history and the circumstances of the case. Finally, when the prosecution has tried a case as a death penalty case, the jury that heard the case and found the defendant guilty will then be asked to decide whether to impose the death penalty.

Go to Sentencing, Parole, and Probation FAQ.

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