Sentencing is the final act in a court process that involves a judge, and can only come as the result of a conviction or the entering of a plea bargain. Typically, the sentence that is handed down by a judge involves a degree of imprisonment, a fine, and/or other punishments which a defendant that is convicted of a crime may have to face.
If an individual is being sentenced for multiple crimes, a sentence can be consecutive, meaning that a subsequent sentence will begin after the previous one is served, or concurrent, meaning that sentencing will only last as long as the longest single sentence.
The punishments that an individual can be sentenced to are typically laid out in sentencing guidelines that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, a judge is given final discretion and arbitration over the length of time or punishment a criminal will be sentenced to satisfy. Sentencing may also be affected by the choices made by the prosecutor or district attorney, who is held responsible for deciding what to charge the suspect with in the first place before the sentencing even takes place.
Some jurisdictions have imposed sentencing laws which cause career criminals, usually individuals who have been sentenced to three crimes, to face a more severe sentence that will cause them to face a much harsher sentence following a third offense.
In addition to the actual sentence, a conviction may also confer social sentencing that develops due to social stigma due to certain categories of crimes.