A disposition hearing is a legal term that refers to a sentencing hearing. If a court has established your guilt, the judge may determine your sentence at a separate hearing known as a disposition hearing.

The Pre-Sentencing Investigation

Before your disposition hearing, probation officers conduct a pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) designed to provide the judge with enough information to determine your sentence. The investigation includes details of your offense, your prior criminal record (if any), and a risk assessment, among other elements. The PSI often strongly influences the judge’s determination of your sentence. 

Hearing Procedure

Your disposition is adversarial, meaning that both you (or your lawyer) and the prosecution present arguments and recommendations concerning your sentence. The prosecution typically argues for a harsh sentence, while your lawyer will argue for leniency. 

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge will decide your sentence. You can present an oral argument, a written argument, or both.  You can also present evidence such as letters of support from your family and friends. The prosecution might also call witnesses who argue for a harsher sentence. 

You will have the opportunity to address the court yourself. Once the judge announces your sentence, if it includes incarceration, you will begin serving your time immediately. Alternatively, the judge might set a date for you to report to jail. 

You have 30 days to appeal, and you will need appropriate grounds for it. Your lawyer can help you with this.

Possible Penalties

Many different types of penalties are possible, depending on the nature of your offense. These include:

  • Jail or prison: The difference between jail and prison is that jail is typically for misdemeanors, while prison is for people convicted of felonies.
  • Fines, which you pay to the government:
  • Victim restitution, which you pay to the victims of the crime. The amount of restitution is typically based on the amount that you gained from committing the crime. You might be required to return an amount you were convicted of stealing from the victim, for example.
  • Probation. Probation allows you to walk free under the periodic supervision of your probation officer and under certain terms. You might be forbidden from drinking alcohol, for example. If you violate the terms of your probation, you might go to jail or prison.
  • Education or counseling: You might be required to attend substance abuse classes, anger management classes, etc., at your own expense.
  • Community service: The court might require you to complete a certain number of hours of community service. Courts often sentence DUI offenders to community service, for example. 
  • Substance abuse treatment programs: The court might require you to complete a substance abuse treatment program, which will demand more from you than simply attending substance abuse classes.
  • The death penalty. You can only receive the death penalty for murder. Even then, aggravating factors must be present. Courts do not often sentence defendants to death, but it does happen from time to time. Currently, executions have been indefinitely suspended.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can greatly influence the sentence that the judge imposes.

Sentencing Guidelines

Judges enjoy a certain amount of discretion in sentencing, but they must also comply with certain sentencing guidelines, including maximum and minimum sentences. Ohio divides offenses into five classes of misdemeanors and five classes of felonies, each with its own maximum sentence. 

Following are a few examples:

  • The maximum sentence for a “minor misdemeanor” is a fine of $150. No jail time is possible.
  • The maximum sentence for a Class 1 Misdemeanor is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • The maximum sentence for a Class 1 Felony is 11 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.
  • The maximum sentence for a Class  Felony is 12 months in prison and a fine of $2,550.

Most offenders do not receive the maximum sentence, but repeat offenders are treated far more harshly than first-time offenders.

The Assistance of an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney is Critical at a Disposition Hearing

If the state has charged you with a serious crime, you are playing with your life if you fail to take your disposition hearing seriously. Selecting the right criminal defense lawyer, either before you begin your defense or before your disposition hearing, can help you pursue the most favorable sentencing arrangement. Do not underestimate its importance.

Contact the Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC give us a call today at (513) 333-0014 or visit us at our Cincinnati law office.

Suhre & Associates, LLC – Cincinnati
600 Vine Street, Suite 1004
Cincinnati, OH 45202
United States