How does a judge decide a sentence?
If the crime is a felony, the sentencing judge must apply the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines which give a presumptive sentence that a defendant should receive based upon the seriousness of the crime and the defendant's criminal record. When a probationary sentence is called for by the Guidelines, a judge may impose county jail time, fines, treatment, restitution, or other requirements as conditions of probation. Before sentencing, a pre-sentence investigation may be prepared which includes a social history of the defendant, criminal history of the defendant, victim impact and other information and recommendations. The prosecutor and defense attorney also may make recommendations to the judge regarding sentencing.
If the judge is sentencing a defendant for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense, the judge relies on the judge's experience and past sentencing practices. Occasionally, there is a mandatory minimum sentence that is required. There are no sentencing guidelines for misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors.