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What Is a Probation Report?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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A probation report is a document that provides information about a person on probation or trial. There are several different types of probation report that may be used, depending on local regulations. A probation report is often filled out by a probation officer, but some versions of the report are self-reported by the person on probation.

If a person is awaiting trial or has been convicted but not yet sentenced, a probation officer may be required to fill out what is known as a pre-sentence probation report. This document details information about the crime or criminal record of the defendant, as well as contain summaries and notes from meetings that the probation officer has had with the defendant. If there are extenuating circumstances to a crime that the probation officer discovers through interviews and investigation, he or she may include that information for the judge to examine before making a sentencing decision. If, for instance, a probation officer decides that a person convicted of a car accident that occurred while driving drunk could benefit from alcohol rehabilitation more than prison, he or she may recommend this in the probation report. These reports may detail any steps that a convicted person has been taking to address his or her problems and atone for crimes or mistakes, but can also contain information that suggests the convicted person seems to show no signs of remorse or is uninterested in treatment or reparations.

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Another type of probation report is used if a person is sentenced to probation. This may occur after a jail sentence is served or in lieu of jail time. A probation report in this instance is used to keep track of the convicted person's whereabouts, current activities, and adherence to other sentencing conditions. Some courts will allow convicted people to fill out their own probation report, which is called self-reporting. Others may require the person to meet with a probation officer periodically to report on his or her condition.

In either case, a probation officer may take certain investigatory steps to verify information provided on the probation report. This may include contacting employers or landlords, visiting the person on probation while he or she is at work, and monitoring other conditions of the sentence. If a person must attend substance abuse meetings or wear an alcohol monitoring device while on probation, the probation officer will verify that these conditions are met for a probation report, or note any refusal to adhere to conditions.

Probation reports may be very important if a person violates any term of his or her sentence, whether accidentally or intentionally. If a convicted person suffers a relapse of alcohol or drug abuse, a history of probation reports can help a judge get a clear idea of the situation. If the person has regularly attended rehabilitation meetings and shown a history of clear and honest attempts to change his or her life, the judge may be willing to be lenient in some cases. On the other hand, if a person has consistently challenged the rules and regulations of a prior sentence, probation reports may signal that the defendant constitutes a growing problem and shows no signs of changing illegal behavior, which may influence the judge to administer a harsher penalty.

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