Maybe. If you’re convicted of or plead guilty to a crime, you may face a prison sentence. Whether you go straight to prison or jail after a conviction depends on your case. Sometimes, an officer may immediately put you in handcuffs in the courtroom. Other times, the court may release you until sentencing. Knowing when you will go to prison helps you prepare for when that time comes.
When will you go to prison after a guilty plea or conviction?
There are many possible outcomes in criminal cases. At the outset, you could plea guilty. A judge or jury could find you guilty. A judge or jury could find you not guilty. Or the court could dismiss your charges somewhere along the way. If you plead guilty or get found guilty, however, you could go to jail.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could even go to jail as soon as soon as you enter a plea or get a verdict. In fact, in some of the more serious cases, you may have already been in jail before that. For example, imagine that a jury convicts you of a serious crime like murder, manslaughter or something similar. It is very likely that the judge will put you in custody after a conviction.
There are several reasons that judges do this. Making you go straight to prison or jail after a murder conviction helps the public feel safe. It also is a way for the judge and prosecutor to make sure that you show up for sentencing. Otherwise, officials fear, you could try to run away and avoid prison.
But going straight to prison or jail can also benefit you. Imagine that you get sentenced to a 10-year term for assault. The time you spend in prison between your conviction and sentencing will likely count toward that 10-year period. This time is known as “time served.”
When will you go to prison after a sentencing hearing?
If you do not go straight to prison or jail after a guilty verdict, the officer may place you in custody after your sentencing hearing. Your sentencing hearing is where the judge decides how long you will be in prison or on probation for your conviction.
To decide, judges often rely on a “pre-sentence investigation report” (also called a “PSI” or “PSIR”). This document comes from the probation department. This report includes information about your history, your offense and your behavior. The judge will consider it when deciding what sentence is right for the case and for you. If the judge orders you to prison, the courtroom officer may put you in handcuffs at that hearing.
When will you be able to stay out of prison through your appeal?
In some rare circumstances, you may even be able to stay out of prison while your appeal is pending. After a conviction, you can file an appeal. In federal court, you appeal to a federal circuit court of appeals. For example, in North Carolina, you appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In state courts, you appeal to the state’s first appellate court. In North Carolina, again, this would be the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Sometimes, you can request that a court release you on bond while your appeal is pending. Appeals take several months. So, a release during this time gives you a chance to work, spend time with your family, pay bills and make other preparations. But such a release will come with conditions, and you will go to prison if you violate those as well.
In some situations, you will go straight to prison after a criminal conviction. Other times, you may not go until after sentencing. And you could even stay out of prison while your case is on appeal in certain circumstances. Understanding these possibilities is important when you’re waiting for the judge or jury to reach a verdict in a criminal trial.