What Actually Is A Pre-Sentence Report?
A pre-sentence report is compiled by a probation officer prior to sentencing, and is meant to give the judge a fuller picture of the defendant. It is also meant to identify any major issues that the person may have, whether they are struggling with chemical dependency or mental health issues. The report can help the court identify what resources could be used to help the person avoid future court involvement. Lastly, a pre-sentence report is used to gather victim impact statements and can be used as a vehicle for the judge to understand how the crime impacted the community.
When Does Sentencing Actually Take Place In A Criminal Case?
The time at which sentencing will take place in a criminal case will depend on the case itself. Under Minnesota law, it is required that a pre-sentence report for a felony case be completed before sentencing. There are some counties in Minnesota that will stick to that, and it usually takes a couple of months for a probation officer to compile a pre-sentence report. That is because it requires gathering all of the necessary information, meeting with the client and meeting with any collateral contacts. In other counties, the judges will allow you to waive the pre-sentence report if there is already a solid deal in place that doesn’t leave any question as to what the sentence will be. So, it’s very dependent on the case.
What Can Someone Expect To Happen At A Sentencing Hearing?
The purpose of a sentencing hearing is for the judge to announce the imposition of a sentence on the defendant. Generally, the judge will go over a plea agreement. If there was a trial that resulted in a guilty verdict, then the judge will explain the verdict and then allow the prosecutor to speak first. The prosecutor gets to lay out their argument and ask for whatever they like within the bounds of the law. After the prosecutor speaks, if there is a victim impact statement it will be read or provided next. Afterwards the defense attorney will get an opportunity to speak. The defense’s statement is generally a more involved and personal, it is designed to provide information on behalf of the defendant. Because the defense attorney will actually have a relationship with the defendant the defense attorney can provide a more thorough information, including the work that the defendant has done in an attempt to turn their life around.
Once both attorneys have spoken, the judge will give the victim an opportunity to speak. After that, the defendant will have the last opportunity to speak. Some of my clients really want to tell the judge how remorseful they are and discuss all of the positive changes they’ve made in their life. For other people, public speaking is just too much of a stressor and they choose not to say anything. So, whether or not the defendant speaks is a personal choice. If they choose to speak, they will be the last person to do so before the judge announces their sentence in front of everyone in the courtroom.
What Factors Does The Judge Consider When Determining A Sentence?
The judge is going to look at a lot of factors. I certainly couldn’t name them all, but two of the main ones are whether or not the defendant feels remorse, and what steps the defendant has taken to benefit his or her life since the crime occurred. If it’s a case that stems from chemical dependency or drug abuse, the judge is going to consider whether or the not defendant has gone to treatment, been assessed for a chemical dependency issue, started counseling or therapy, or completed any schooling. In the case of assault, the judge is looking to see if the defendant has taken an anger management class. In the case of domestic abuse, the judge is looking to see if the defendant has taken a class that is tailored toward addressing domestic abuse issues. Ultimately, the judge is considering what the defendant has done to better themselves and how they have demonstrated that they are not going to commit crimes in the future.
Other factors include how much time the person has spent in custody and the severity of the crime. If it is a very serious assault and the person has only spent two days in jail, then a judge might think that that’s not enough time. Conversely, a judge may decide that a person has really taken steps in an effort to turn their life around, and may feel that additional jail time isn’t warranted. A judge is going to take into consideration a person’s prior criminal record in judging how sincere they may be in turning their life around. A judge is also going to consider what the attorneys and any witnesses have to say. In some of the cases that I’ve dealt with, family members, clergy members and treatment providers have spoken or written letters of support on behalf of my client (the defendant). Oftentimes they will explain how they have changed their ways and how they plan to encourage them to continue on a law-abiding path.
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