On the date of sentencing, the first thing the judge will ask is if all parties have received a copy of the Presentence Investigation Report and had a chance to review the report. It is a rule that the first draft of the Presentence Investigation Report must be sent out no later than 35 days prior to the date of sentencing. If a client wishes, this rule can be waived, and sentencing can take place sooner.
In some cases, the judge will receive a written submission (either a motion or memorandum) from defense counsel prior to sentencing. This motion or memorandum will explain all relevant issues for the judge to consider. In addition to written arguments, both sides, prosecution and defense, are allowed to make oral arguments at the time of sentencing. The judge is required to give every defendant in a criminal case the chance to speak before the judge imposes sentence. This is an opportunity for clients who want to say something to the judge. It is often a good idea for clients to say something at the time of sentencing, but it is not required. Clients can also write to the judge before sentencing. This letter should not be sent directly to the judge, but rather to defense counsel, who will then forward the letter to the judge.
A sentencing hearing, like all court proceedings, is open to the public. Family members can, and should, attend the sentencing hearing. Family members, friends, employers, neighbors, etc. may also send letters to the judge before the sentencing. These letters should not be sent directly to the judge, but rather to defense counsel, who will gather them together and send the letters to the judge all at once. In some cases, family members or friends can also speak at the sentencing hearing.
After hearing from all parties, the judge will announce the sentence. If a prison sentence is imposed, in some cases, the judge will permit a client who has been released on bond to “voluntary surrender” at a later date. Not everyone goes immediately into custody even when a prison sentence is imposed. It depends on the individual case, and most importantly on how the client has behaved while on bond.
If a prison sentence is imposed, the judge can make a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons as to where (which prison facility) the sentence should be served. The Bureau of Prisons does consider this recommendation but is not required to follow the judge’s recommendation. In most cases, the judge will recommend that the client be designated to a facility as close as possible to family members to encourage family visits.
If a sentence of probation or supervised release is imposed, the client will have 72 hours to report to the probation office. It is usually a good idea to go directly from the courtroom to the probation office to check in. The probation officer will usually take general information on that date and provide forms to be filled out.