The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for a defendant to plead “open” and get sentenced by the trial court. You can also have a jury sentencing hearing, but I’ll discuss that process in a separate post.
Defense attorneys often use the open sentencing procedure as a pressure release valve to resolve the tension between stubborn clients and/or stubborn prosecutors. Let me explain the process.
First, let’s define the phrase. An open plea means that the defendant pleads guilty, signs admonishments and stipulations that inform him of type of crime he is pleading guilty to, explain that he is waiving all rights related to trying the merits of the case to a jury, and specify the punishment range of the offense. But the defendant’s actual sentence is not yet fixed. It is up to the trial court to determine what the defendant’s sentence will be after holding an evidentiary hearing. At this hearing, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney have the opportunity to put on evidence for the court to consider before deciding what sentence the defendant should get.