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What Happens Before A Sentence Is Imposed In Federal Court?

November 3, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Imposing a sentence in federal court is a complex process. In New Jersey, when you are convicted of a crime, the next thing that can happen is being sentenced. At this point, the federal court judge reveals whether you are going to prison or not. The judge also says how many years or months you are going to spend in prison.


How the judge determines the sentence is a complicated procedure. Regardless, you need to know before proceeding to federal court. Here is what happens before a judge in New Jersey imposes a sentence in federal court.


Presentence Report


First, the federal court requests a probation officer to sit with the convicted individual and interview them. It is after you have pleaded guilty. The interview can take place at the probation office, your house, or the facility holding you.


The interview will help the probation officer put together a presentence report. The document should contain your educational history, social history, family history, financial history, medical conditions, and plans. Simply put, the purpose of a presentence report is to help the federal court know more about you.


The judge decides whether or not to ask for a presentence report. The probation officer can present the report to the judge either verbally or in writing.


The interview with the probation officer is arguably the most important interview you will ever have. It has the largest impact on your sentence.


The judge will rely on the presentence report to determine how long you will stay in prison. It is why it is essential to be respectful to the probation officer during the interview.


It is important to note that a probation officer is also a law-enforcement officer. Therefore, make sure that all the information you provide is correct. If the officer suspects you are providing misleading information, they can charge you with obstruction of justice.


While you wait for the interview, ensure that you prepare for it. There are two things to keep in mind. First, be honest. For instance, if you withhold your substance and alcohol abuse history, you will not enjoy the benefits of RDAP. The program can reduce your sentence by up to two years.


Secondly, read the report to confirm that all the information is accurate. It is because the probation officer will also interview your medical providers, investigators, family members, and your attorney. You cannot change any information on the report after a sentence.


A quick summary of why a presentence report is essential


  • A psychologist will use it to see if you are eligible for programs.
  • It will determine whether you can participate in programs while in prison.
  • It will determine who can visit you while in prison and who can’t.
  • It will determine the severity of your offense.
  • It will confirm whether you need medical attention.

Once the pre-statement report is ready, it will go to the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense lawyer. Fortunately, you can object to the contents of the report. An attorney can help you identify the objections to make.

Sentencing Memorandum
Before sentencing in the New Jersey federal court, your criminal defense lawyer will help you prepare a sentencing memorandum. The memorandum contains letters from friends and relatives saying good things about the offender. The goal is to convince the judge to be lenient when addressing the sentence.

There is no limit to the number of letters that your attorney can submit to the judge. However, it would be best if you focused on quality over quantity.

You should ask your relatives and colleagues to be honest when writing letters. They should highlight how you have positively impacted their lives.

Even though the letters are addressed to the judge, they should be sent to your attorney, who will include them in the sentencing memorandum. Letters sent directly to the judge are rejected and returned with a notice of discrepancies.

The prosecutor can also prepare a sentencing memorandum. Theirs request harsher penalties such as more time in prison. Below are what to include in a sentencing memorandum:

Your childhood and educational background

Your accomplishments and aspirations

Your contribution to society

Philanthropic acts

Your role as a spouse or parent

Medical needs

Sentence Hearing
During the hearing, the judge will have to listen to what you, the prosecutor, and your attorney have to say. Therefore, you need to work together with your criminal defense attorney to know what to say before the judge. It increases your chances of getting a lenient sentence.

During a sentencing hearing, ensure you remain relaxed. When giving a statement, stick to the script provided to you by your attorney. You can also ask your attorney to recommend a prison to the judge.

The above is what happens before a sentence in a New Jersey federal court. Spodek Law Group can represent you through the entire process. We have a team of experienced criminal defense lawyers to help you find the best possible solution.



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