What is a Presentence Report?

In criminal cases where the defendant has been found guilty, or has entered a plea of guilty or no contest, the judge may utilize a presentence report in determining the punishment. A presentence report is used in a variety of circumstances. It serves as an overview of the defendant – something the judge can review before setting a penalty. The report is most often used in cases where the judge has the ability to determine the sentence that will be imposed. While the report alone does not determine sentencing, it can play a major role in helping to give the judge a better picture of you and your past, helping to substantiate a judge’s decision.

What is Included in a Presentence Report?

A presentence report can include quite a bit of information. It may include items such as:

  • Information about the crime
  • Previous arrest and conviction record
  • Educational background
  • Employment background
  • Marital status
  • Medical and psychiatric history
  • Financial status
  • Residential history
  • Victim impact statement

The judge will review these factors in deciding on what sentence to impose. In some cases, there are sentencing guidelines so the judge may impose a sentence that falls within these options but may vary widely. Using the report as a basis, the judge will be able to take all factors into consideration before imposing a sentence.

How Can the Presentence Report Help Me?

The use of a presentence report can often help you to receive a lesser sentence. Your attorney will try to make sure that the officer preparing the report is aware of all the good things that you have done or accomplished so these can be included in the report. Because the judge will often simply approve of the proposed sentence when reviewing a presentence report it is essential that you present yourself in as positive a light as possible. Your attorney will want to highlight the positive things. For example, if you have a good work record your attorney may seek a statement from your employer. If you have had substance abuse problems it is helpful to show that you are enrolled in a treatment program.

You’ll likely be asked to meet with the officer who is writing the report in order for him to gain more information. Your attorney will assist in preparing you for this meeting so that you are sure to include all the positive information you want known. It’s also a good idea to have your lawyer attend this meeting with you. While a presentence report won’t reverse your conviction, it can play a big role in reducing the sentence that is imposed.