The final stage of criminal proceedings in California is called the sentencing hearing. After being arrested, arraigned, undergo pre-trial, preliminary hearing and the trial by jury, the final stage is imposing the appropriate penalties for the crime.

The following are the requisites for sentencing under California law:

  1. A jury has determined the guilt of the accused or the accused had pleaded guilty to the crime charged;
  2. Upon the guilty finding, the judge would schedule the sentencing hearing for the parties where evidence is presented to determine the appropriate penalty imposable;

The sentencing hearing is done as follows:

  1. For misdemeanors, the sentence needs to be read out or promulgated after at least six (6) hours or not more than five (5) days after guilt has been established, unless waived by the accused. This is extendible when a motion for new trial has been filed, or probation has been recommended or if the accused is declared insane;
  2. When a guilty plea is made by the accused, then the judge can either keep the defendant in police custody, order the accused out on bail arrested or require that new bail be posted to assure the court of the appearance of the accused at sentencing.

The accused, even at sentencing, has the following Constitutional rights:

  • The right to be present at the sentencing;
  • The right to counsel, either of choice or by court appointment;
  • The right to present evidence for their case;
  • The right to propose alternative sentences;
  • The right to be arraigned for judgment. This is different from the pre-trial arraignment as this involves re-reading all the previous proceedings and the consequent decisions made;

At sentencing hearing, there is no cross-examination allowed as to the evidence presented. There is still a right to question the evidence presented as to its weight in determining the gravity of the sentence imposed. The following are the requisites to this end:

  • The parties must be properly advised as to the nature, effect and gravity of the sentence imposable;
  • The parties must be thoroughly informed of the basis of the judge for the degree of the sentences imposed;
  • The judge must consider objections to the recommended sentence;

The sentencing hearing is a serious legal activity in California. Should you be or know anyone undergoing this process, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.