The report that is issued before a sentence is handed down is one of the most important documents created during your case. This document will help the judge in your proceeding make an informed decision based on facts and precedent as opposed to his or her subjective opinion on the matter. Let’s take a closer look at the various reasons why the presentence investigation report (PSR) is such an important piece of paper.
The Report Provides More Context for Your Actions
This document will include information about yourself such as your employment history, prior criminal record and upbringing. If you have a long employment history and no criminal background, the judge may be more inclined to give you a lighter sentence. The same may be true if you have never been convicted of a serious crime such as murder or rape.
What Was Your Motive for Committing a Crime?
The PSR issued in your case will provide more details about why you violated the law. For example, it may indicate that you stole money from your employer because you needed extra cash to feed your family. In such a scenario, it may be easier for your attorney to argue that you should be shown mercy by the judge.
It may also be harder for a judge to feel comfortable treating you too harshly for doing something to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves. Of course, if the court determines that you stole from your employer because you were being greedy, it may be difficult to justify anything other than the maximum sentence.
Were Drugs or Alcohol a Factor In Your Case?
Typically, any problems that you had with substance abuse will be included in a PSR. Let’s say that you were convicted of possessing, selling or using a controlled substance. If you have a history of drug use, a judge may decide that you may benefit more from spending time in a treatment facility as opposed to a prison. If you have already sought treatment, it may be seen as an indication that you understand the gravity of your actions. This may also provide a judge with justification for being lenient when determining your punishment.
How Might a Sentencing Report May Help to Neutralize a Judge’s Biases?
Research indicates that minority defendants are more likely to be sent to prison when compared to white defendants. This is generally true even when a white defendant and a minority defendant commit the same crime or have the same criminal background. A PSR makes it easier to focus on the facts of the case as opposed to what the defendant looks like. Therefore, the judge can make an objective decision that allows for justice to be served in a given matter.
This Report May Be Important If You’re Put on Probation or Obtain Parole
If you are sentenced to probation instead of jail time, your probation officer will keep a copy of the PSR issued in your case. It will also likely be referenced in the event that you become eligible for parole. It’s likely that your attorney will cite the contents of this document in an effort to help you obtain your freedom as quickly as possible. The same may be true if you are accused of violating the terms of your probation or parole at any point after your release.
Creating a PSR is generally the first thing that happens after you are convicted by a jury. Typically, your attorney will be able to review it prior to the actual sentencing date. If this does not happen, it may be grounds for appeal in your case. If any of the information in this report is inaccurate, it may also be grounds for appeal. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to study this document carefully regardless of how you feel about the outcome of your case.
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