What Generally is a Pre-Sentence Report?
Pre-sentence reports are more common in felony cases than in misdemeanor cases. A pre-sentence report in superior and felony court is prepared during the time between the entry of a plea and the actual sentencing date. It’s prepared by a division of the probation department that deals with pre-sentencing. A full criminal history will be run on the individual before the report is created. Pre-sentence reports typically include the state’s recommendation for sentencing, a copy of the plea agreement, the probation department’s recommendation and a complete criminal history. It is presented to the court prior to the actual sentencing date.
When Does The Actual Sentencing Generally Take Place in a Case?
With regards to felony cases, most sentencings are going to take place about 30 days after you enter the plea, even if the plea is a stipulated agreement in which there’s nothing for the judge to decide. It’s still typically going to require a pre-sentence report to protect all parties involved and to ensure that everybody agrees that the promises in the plea agreement concerning the individual’s criminal history, felony history and domestic violence history are all confirmed.
The pre-sentence report gives an opportunity for victims to provide input to the court if they don’t want to appear at sentencing. A victim may want to request restitution or financial compensation for any damage or loss caused by the crime, and a pre-sentence report allows everything to be considered ahead of time.
What Actually Happens at The Sentencing?
When I am preparing for the sentencing, I will typically receive a copy of the pre-sentence report, but it might not be until a day or two before the sentencing (sometimes the day of sentencing). That’s why a lot of sentencings get continued to deal with unexpected issues. If everything’s prepared and looks in order, then a sentencing hearing is much like a trial. The state gets to make its presentation and recommendations first, and they get to provide the legal support for whatever sentence they’re arguing for. If they’re arguing for an aggravated prison sentence, they’re going to have layout certain legal aggravators which support that request. After they make their presentation, I get to make my presentation for the defense. We get to lay out mitigation, and either reduce the potential sentence or justify the sentence we’ve agreed to.
Most of the time, we’re agreeing to sentences ahead of time and there’s not too much to argue about. In a probation plea, we’re typically trying to persuade the judge one way or the other on a length of probation, because that’ll be always up to the judge. But when it comes to jail or prison, it’s usually agreed to ahead of time. However, if we’ve agreed to a range, then the arguments often become more important. For example, if the range is five to 10 years, then I’ll be presenting everything I can to argue it down closer to five, and the state may argue close to 10. Ultimately, the judge has to consider all of those factors in determining what the sentence should be. Factors that are going to be considered in a mitigation argument include whether or not there is a criminal history, and whether or not there was a significant injury or significant financial damage suffered by the victim.
Hopefully, my client’s remorseful, has family support, and has a job because I will want to show the judge that there’s a reason to give my client a chance to return to society after a shorter period of incarceration or probation. The state is going to argue that there was financial or emotional harm done to the victim. They may also argue that the defendant has a lengthy criminal history and should be punished because it is a recurring problem with the defendant. They can even have the police or detectives that were involved come in and argue that the individual is someone they’ve been dealing with for a long time, or that it’s a unique case that requires significant punishment.
That is a proceeding that occurs outside of the trial, and the standard of evidence being presented is less than beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge can put whatever weight on it that they want, but there are legal aggravators and mitigators that the judge has to consider, and those are the things that we typically focus on. I often have my clients’ family members or friends speak on their behalf if I think it will help to humanize and individualize the defendant in front of the judge.
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