Under Texas law, defendants in criminal cases have the right to make a statement in the courtroom before the judge issues their sentences, which is referred to as an allocution. Texas CCP § 42.07 instructs judges to ask defendants if they have anything to say as to why they should not receive a specific sentence from the court. This procedural requirement, or opportunity for an allocution, occurs following a criminal trial or after the parties have submitted a plea bargain to the court for approval.
In most cases, defendants exercise their right to remain silent and do not make a statement to the court. Especially when defendants have signed plea agreements, and they know what sentence they will receive from the court, defendants have no reason or need to speak. The most common circumstance in which defendants engage in an allocution is when the court is going to sentence them, and there has been no plea agreement. As a result, they do not know what sentence they will receive for the crime, so they may want to take one last chance to speak before they receive their sentences.
If judges forget or fail to ask if the defendants want to speak before sentencing, defendants (or their defense lawyers) must object in open court. Otherwise, defendants will waive their rights to allocution.
Texas CCP § 42.03 also gives crime victims the right to allocution in some situations. In contrast to a defendant’s right to allocution, a crime victim only has the right to address a defendant after the judge has announced the defendant’s sentence for the crime. Victims of crimes in these circumstances are free to express their views about the crime and the defendant’s actions. The defendants have no right to respond to crime victim allocutions. However, victim allocutions will not have an impact on the sentence that the defendants receive, because victims do not speak until the defendants already have received their sentences.
If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 359-3362 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.