After a person is convicted of a crime, whether through a guilty plea, plea bargain, or jury verdict, the appropriate legal punishment is determined at the sentencing phase. A number of different kinds of punishment may be imposed on a convicted criminal defendant, including:
- Incarceration in jail (shorter-term);
- Incarceration in prison (longer-term);
- A suspended sentence, which takes effect if conditions such as probation are violated;
- Payment of restitution to the crime victim;
- Community service; and
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Sentencing usually takes place almost immediately after convictions for infractions and minor misdemeanors, or when a defendant has pled guilty. In more complex criminal cases, such as those involving serious felonies, the sentencing judge usually receives input from the prosecutor, the defense, and the probation department (which prepares recommendations in a "pre-sentence report").
The sentencing judge will also consider punishments and sentencing ranges identified in applicable criminal statutes, as well as a number of case-specific factors, including:
- The defendant's criminal history, or lack thereof;
- The nature of the crime, the manner in which it was committed, and the impact on victims, i.e. whether injuries resulted;
- The defendant's personal, economic, and social circumstances; and
- Regret or remorse expressed by the defendant.