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What is a sentencing hearing?

A sentencing hearing is where an offender is given a sentence by a judge. It may take place right after an offender has pled guilty or been found guilty – or it may be days, weeks or months afterward. Sentencing hearings can be very short (sometimes only a few minutes) or much longer, taking hours or days to finish.

At some sentencing hearings, the Crown and the offender’s lawyer (or duty counsel) will agree on the type of sentence that the judge should give. At other hearings, the Crown and the offender’s lawyer (or duty counsel) will argue for different sentences. It is important to remember that the judge, not the lawyers, always makes the final decision on what the sentence will be.

As part of their arguments, the Crown and the offender’s lawyer (or duty counsel) can present things like letters, a PSR, or the offender’s criminal record and ask the judge for a certain type and/or length of sentence [link to types of sentence].

The materials presented at a sentencing hearing are often entered as exhibits.

After the lawyers have made their arguments (called “submissions”), the judge will consider their arguments and sentence the offender. Sometimes the judge will do this right after submissions. Other times, the judge will take a break or even adjourn the case to another day to think about what sentence they will give.