In felonies and serious misdemeanors, sentencing judges rely on a “pre-sentence report” written by the local probation office. This report will be prepared after the conviction, but before the sentencing hearing. The purpose of the report is to give the judge a full picture of the defendant and the circumstances of the crime, to allow defendants to present favorable facts about their lives and plans, and to give victims a chance to tell their stories. Most reports include a sentencing recommendation.
To prepare the report, the probation officer first interviews the defendant and reviews the defendant’s criminal, employment, and education histories. Typically, the officer speaks with the arresting officer and any victims of the crime, and will often interview the defendant’s family and friends.
The defense will be given a copy of the report prior to sentencing, and a copy will be filed with the court. At sentencing, the defense will have an opportunity to contest any portion of the report that it feels are wrong or misleading.