Types of Criminal Sentences: Potential Penalties for Convicted Persons

In most cases, sentencing is the final phase of a criminal prosecution procedure. The sentencing phase usually occurs immediately or within a few days after a defendant pleads guilty, enters a plea deal or is found guilty of a crime. Depending on the nature of the offense, a defendant may be required to pay a fine, spend time behind bars or make restitution to one or more victims.

The sentence for a misdemeanor crime, sometimes referred to as an infraction, usually involves the paying of a fine or probation. Misdemeanor charges generally apply to less serious crimes and first-time offenders. Certain misdemeanor crimes may also entail jail time. Felony convictions are reserved for more serious state and federal criminal acts and are more likely to result in a prison sentence.

Additional Types of Sentences

  • Restitution: A defendant may be required to repay a victim or victims, including hospital bills and property that was stolen or damaged.
  • Probation: When a defendant receives a probationary sentence, they must abide by the terms of probation. If the defendant fails to observe the rules of probation, the judge can impose the sentence prescribed by law. Probation may not be available for repeat offenders.
  • Parole: A defendant who is granted an early release from prison is placed on parole. Failure to meet the conditions of parole could result in the defendant being sent back to prison to complete the original sentence.
  • Alternative sentences: Typical alternative sentences include house arrest, community service or completing a treatment program for drug possession or alcohol abuse.
  • Death penalty: The death penalty is available for serious federal crimes and for designated crimes committed in some states. While most criminal sentences are prescribed by a judge, a jury is responsible for recommending a death sentence in most capital cases.
  • Concurrent sentence: This involves serving multiple sentences at the same time. The sentences may be imposed at the same time or while an existing sentence is being served.
  • Consecutive sentence: Multiple convictions can result in consecutive or cumulative sentences. This means that one sentence must expire before a subsequent sentence can begin.
  • Deferred sentence: A judge may decide to postpone a sentence until a later date.
  • Determinate sentence: The defendant is sentenced to prison for a fixed period of time.
  • Indeterminate sentence: The sentence prescribes a minimum and maximum amount of time that must be served by the defendant.
  • Life sentence: The defendant is required to spend the remainder of their life in prison.
  • Mandatory sentence: The sentencing judge is required to impose a sentence mandated by law. Suspension of sentence or probation may not be available in such cases.
  • Presumptive sentence: The judge may be required to follow prescribed sentencing guidelines. The judge may be allowed to consider mitigating circumstances when determining the most appropriate sentence.
  • Suspended sentence: The judge may delay the imposition or execution of a sentence.

The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp have the answers to all your questions about criminal sentencing. Call 713-868-6100 today to schedule a confidential consultation.