Especially in felony and more serious misdemeanor cases, judges typically rely on presentence reports, prepared by probation officers, in making sentencing decisions. Probation officers usually prepare these reports during a several-week interval between the conviction and the date set for sentencing.
To prepare the report, a probation officer (or a social worker or psychologist working for the probation department) first interviews the defendant and checks the defendant’s rap sheet (criminal record). The probation officer typically talks to the victim, the arresting officer, and the defendant’s family and friends.
In addition to the information gleaned from these sources, most probation presentence reports also provide:
- the circumstances of the offense
- the defendant’s personal history, including the defendant’s criminal record, and
- a statement by the victim as to what the victim lost or how the victim suffered, sometimes called a victim impact statement.
Good defense lawyers make sure that the probation officer preparing the report hears about all the good things the defendant has done and is doing. For example, if the defendant has enrolled in an addiction treatment or counseling program or has an employer willing to say nice things about him, a defense attorney will transmit that information to the probation officer. It’s important that the defense make the presentence report appear as favorable to the defendant as possible, because the report is likely to have a significant impact on the judge’s sentencing decision. Learn More ⇒ Nolo.com