Sentences for felonies in the state of Georgia are subject to strict guidelines; these guidelines maintain uniformity across the state and take into consideration the rights granted to American citizens by the Constitution (i.e., the Eighth Amendment requires that the state of Georgia give reasonable penalties to persons found guilty of a felony).
For felony convictions in Georgia, sentencing is usually performed at a court date that is at a separate time than the conviction. This allows the sentencing judge to take into consideration certain factors other than the crime itself. Pre-sentencing investigations or victim impact statements allow both the victim and the perpetrator to give a more complete view of the situation in which the felony was committed. Often, the person being sentenced will be required to stay in jail during the time between conviction and sentencing, although a lawyer may be able to make other arrangements with the court.
Before a sentence is passed, the court or attorney may order a pre-sentencing investigation; this pre-sentencing investigation is performed by a probation officer and is filed as a report to the court. Pre-sentencing investigations may include criminal history, employment record and suitable personal information, such as living situation or family history. At the end of the report, the probation officer will offer a sentencing recommendation; for example, the probation officer may suggest that the perpetrator is a good candidate for probation. Lawyers sometimes use pre-sentence investigations to try to reduce their clients' sentences, especially if the investigation would help convince a judge that their client has an unmarred background or would not likely be a recidivist.
Victim Impact Statement
Georgia courts allow for victims--or victim's family, in the case of a murder or death--to make a victim impact statement. This statement is either made to the judge or put into a court document, and it details the changes in victim's life that the felony caused. Victim impact statements are not always harmful to perpetrators of crimes; sometimes the victim will ask for the maximum penalty and sometimes they will ask for the minimum penalty.
When a judge in the United States determines the maximum and minimum penalties for a felony, she generally refers to the class into which the felony falls. Where the state of Georgia differs from other states is that there are no set felony classes; instead, every felony has its own uniform sentence. For example: Manslaughter and murder both carry a death or life-imprisonment sentence; violent rape has a sentence of 25 years to life. Both theft and robbery can vary from one to 25 years, dependent upon the circumstances that surround the crime. Drug crimes vary on the amount of drugs or whether there was intent to distribute. Sentences for DUIs are contingent upon the amount of damage done and whether this was a first offense. A Georgia lawyer should know all of the maximum and minimum penalties for crimes committed in the state.
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