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What Is a Presentence Report?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 April 2014
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A presentence report is a tool that can help a judge to determine the sentence that should be given when an individual is convicted of a crime. The presentence report assesses personal information about the criminal, such as previous arrests, mental health, and employment history. This is an attempt to draw an accurate image of the individual and life circumstances that should influence his punishment.

The presentence report can also be used to determine the circumstances for a criminal's incarceration. This document can help to determine where an individual should serve his sentence. Sometimes there are special programs available for those who have been convicted of a crime. The presentence report can help to determine an individual's eligibility for such programs.

This type of document is not usually limited to current information, and many background details are often included. These could include information about a person's family. For example, it may be relevant that a person was abused by a parent. The document can include information regarding mental and physical illnesses, even if treatment has been received.

A presentence report usually contains information about the present state of a person's life. It may include details about marital status or whether the individual is a parent. It can include whether or not a person is employed or in school, as well as information about community work.

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Information about the crime in the present case should also be included. This includes the charges and the number of counts. If there are co-defendants, they may be named. Whether or not a person remained in custody after his arrest may be noted, while if he was released on bond, the amount may be included.

A presentence report almost always contains information regarding previous encounters with the law. This does not only refer to convictions, which are most likely to appear in the report; a person's complete arrest record may also be included.

Some of the information that is contained in a presentence report comes directly from the criminal. In most cases, before the report is completed, an interview is conducted with the individual who is the subject of the report. He may, however, refuse to cooperate with such an interview.

Since this document may be used to make some very important decisions, its accuracy is very important. Information that is obtained from the subject of the report or from other sources needs to be verified. In instances where verification of certain information is not possible, a notation of this should be made.

In most cases, there is a procedure outlined for compiling the presentence report. This procedure may not be the same from one jurisdiction to another. In most instances, however, the defense is given an opportunity to object to or dispute information contained in a draft of the report before the issuance of the final document. The presentence report must be made available to a number of parties, including the court, the subject of the report, his attorney, and the opposing counsel.

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