A pre-sentence report is a report prepared by a probation officer after you have been convicted of a crime. This report contains contextual, historical and personal information about you that assists the judge in determining an appropriate sentence.
How Pre-Sentence Reports Are Prepared
While state and federal laws provide penalty ranges and sentencing guidelines for certain crimes, the judge typically relies on the pre-sentence report to fill in the gaps—to provide pertinent information about your specific circumstances and the context in which the crime was committed, to help determine how lenient or severe your sentence should be. To prepare this report, a probation officer assigned to your case will conduct a pre-sentence investigation, which usually consists of gathering pertinent documentation as well as a personal interview with you. The probation officer will ask for a range of personal information, such as family history, current family status, finances, history of substance abuse, prior criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the crime(s) for which you are convicted. You are required by law to answer these questions thoroughly and honestly or face additional penalties, but it is also an opportunity to better your chances for leniency by including any/all positive information that relates to your situation, such as character statements from friends and family, proof of employment (and good references from employers), or enrollment in counseling or treatment, if applicable.
How Your Attorney Can Help During Pre-Sentencing
While it’s not a requirement to have an attorney involved in your pre-sentence report preparation, it can definitely improve your chances for leniency. An experienced attorney will know what information needs to be included in your pre-sentence report in order to improve your profile, will be able to advise you on steps to take to improve your standing, and will even work with the probation officer before and during your interview to make sure all applicable positive information is included in your report. These steps can make a huge difference in how the judge perceives you, and what type of sentence you receive.