Sentencing Commission Law and Legal Definition

Sentencing commissions are formed by most state legislatures to review existing sentence structure, including laws, policies, and practices, and to recommend to the Legislature and Supreme Court changes regarding the criminal code, criminal procedures, and other aspects of sentencing policies and practices appropriate for the state. They seek to secure the public safety of the state by providing a swift and sure response to the commission of crime. They also seek to ensure fair sentencing that is not biased by geography, race, or judicial assignment, prevent prison overcrowding and the premature release of prisoners, and to provide judges with flexibility in sentencing options.

The purposes of sentencing include:

  1. Protecting the public.
  2. Promoting respect for the law.
  3. Providing just and adequate punishment for the offense.
  4. Deterring criminal conduct.
  5. Imposing sanctions which are least restrictive while consistent
  6. with the protection of the public and the gravity of the crime.
  7. Promoting the rehabilitation of offenders.

The term "tentative sentencing recommendation" is not a technical term used in Alabama statutory law. Generally sentencing recommendations are recommendations made to a judge on how long and what type of sentence a defendant found guilty of a crime should be sentenced to. This type of recommendation can come from a jury, the prosecutor or other interested persons or organizations. Sentencing recommendations can be made for one particular case or can be made generally applicable to a particular class of crime.

Sentencing commissions are formed by most state legislatures to review existing sentence structure, including laws, policies, and practices, and to recommend to the Legislature and Supreme Court changes regarding the criminal code, criminal procedures, and other aspects of sentencing policies and practices appropriate for the state. For example, the Alabama Legislature formed the Alabama Sentencing Commission to study and make recommendations regarding the state's sentencing practices.

In Alabama, after jury trial and before the court proceeds to determine the sentence, the parties have the right to a sentence hearing before the jury. The jury shall give the trial judge an advisory verdict on what the sentence should be. Although the court is not bound to follow the terms of the recommendation, it will consider the recommendation while determining the sentence. There are certain conditions surrounding a sentence hearing.

1) the sentence hearing should be before the same jury that tried unless it is impossible or impracticable to do so.
2) Both the parties have the right to waive the right to sentence hearing and can do so with the consent of the court.
3) If both the parties waive the right to sentence hearing, the court can determine the sentence on its own.

The relevant statues are given below for your reference.

Code of Ala. § 13A-5-46

§ 13A-5-46. Sentence hearing; juries.

(a) Unless both parties with the consent of the court waive the right to have the sentence hearing conducted before a jury as provided in Section 13A-5-44(c), it shall be conducted before a jury which shall return an advisory verdict as provided by subsection (e) of this section. If both parties with the consent of the court waive the right to have the hearing conducted before a jury, the trial judge shall proceed to determine sentence without an advisory verdict from a jury. Otherwise, the hearing shall be conducted before a jury as provided in the remaining subsections of this section.
(b) If the defendant was tried and convicted by a jury, the sentence hearing shall be conducted before that same jury unless it is impossible or impracticable to do so. If it is impossible or impracticable for the trial jury to sit at the sentence hearing, or if the case on appeal is remanded for a new sentence hearing before a jury, a new jury shall be impanelled to sit at the sentence hearing. The selection of that jury shall be according to the laws and rules governing the selection of a jury for the trial of a capital case.
(c) The separation of the jury during the pendency of the sentence hearing, and if the sentence hearing is before the same jury which convicted the defendant, the separation of the jury during the time between the guilty verdict and the beginning of the sentence hearing, shall be governed by the law and court rules applicable to the separation of the jury during the trial of a capital case.
(d) After hearing the evidence and the arguments of both parties at the sentence hearing, the jury shall be instructed on its function and on the relevant law by the trial judge. The jury shall then retire to deliberate concerning the advisory verdict it is to return.
(e) After deliberation, the jury shall return an advisory verdict as follows:
(1) If the jury determines that no aggravating circumstances as defined in Section 13A-5-49 exist, it shall return an advisory verdict recommending to the trial court that the penalty be life imprisonment without parole;
(2) If the jury determines that one or more aggravating circumstances as defined in Section 13A-5-49 exist but do not outweigh the mitigating circumstances, it shall return an advisory verdict recommending to the trial court that the penalty be life imprisonment without parole;
(3) If the jury determines that one or more aggravating circumstances as defined in Section 13A-5-49 exist and that they outweigh the mitigating circumstances, if any, it shall return an advisory verdict recommending to the trial court that the penalty be death.
(f) The decision of the jury to return an advisory verdict recommending a sentence of life imprisonment without parole must be based on a vote of a majority of the jurors. The decision of the jury to recommend a sentence of death must be based on a vote of at least 10 jurors. The verdict of the jury must be in writing and must specify the vote.
(g) If the jury is unable to reach an advisory verdict recommending a sentence, or for other manifest necessity, the trial court may declare a mistrial of the sentence hearing. Such a mistrial shall not affect the conviction. After such a mistrial or mistrials another sentence hearing shall be conducted before another jury, selected according to the laws and rules governing the selection of a jury for the trial of a capital case. Provided, however, that, subject to the provisions of Section 13A-5-44(c), after one or more mistrials both parties with the consent of the court may waive the right to have an advisory verdict from a jury, in which event the issue of sentence shall be submitted to the trial court without a recommendation from a jury.

Code of Ala. § 13A-5-47

§ 13A-5-47. Sentence determination -- Pre-sentence investigation reports.

(a) After the sentence hearing has been conducted, and after the jury has returned an advisory verdict, or after such a verdict has been waived as provided in Section 13A-5-46(a) or Section 13A-5-46(g), the trial court shall proceed to determine the sentence.
(b) Before making the sentence determination, the trial court shall order and receive a written pre-sentence investigation report. The report shall contain the information prescribed by law or court rule for felony cases generally and any additional information specified by the trial court. No part of the report shall be kept confidential, and the parties shall have the right to respond to it and to present evidence to the court about any part of the report which is the subject of factual dispute. The report and any evidence submitted in connection with it shall be made part of the record in the case.
(c) Before imposing sentence the trial court shall permit the parties to present arguments concerning the existence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances and the proper sentence to be imposed in the case. The order of the arguments shall be the same as at the trial of a case.
(d) Based upon the evidence presented at trial, the evidence presented during the sentence hearing, and the pre-sentence investigation report and any evidence submitted in connection with it, the trial court shall enter specific written findings concerning the existence or nonexistence of each aggravating circumstance enumerated in Section 13A-5-49, each mitigating circumstance enumerated in Section 13A