Sentencing Hearing Law and Legal Definition

In criminal cases, sentencing hearing is the hearing that takes place after conviction has already been entered. The purpose of a sentencing hearing is to determine what punishment the defendant deserves for the crime he/she committed. The evidence presented at this hearing is not confined to evidence that would be admissible at trial. Generally, the rules of evidence do not apply. A sentencing witness, also known as a punishment witness, is a witness who may be called at a sentencing hearing.

A sentencing witness' testimony is taken for the purpose of influencing the sentence imposed by the presiding judge. Sentencing witnesses may be called by either the prosecution or defense.

Under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, before imposing sentence, the court must provide the defendant's attorney an opportunity to speak on the defendant's behalf; address the defendant personally, to permit the defendant to speak or present any information to mitigate the sentence including the presentation of witnesses; and provide a prosecutor an equivalent opportunity to that of the defense attorney.