What Are Pre-Sentence Reports In Texas?

A pre-sentence report, commonly referred to as a pre-sentence investigation, is a report requested by a judge to aid the judge in the sentencing process. The report is typically requested after someone has decided to enter a plea of guilty or has been found guilty after a trial. A judge may find enough evidence exists to decide upon a sentence without the report or a judge may request that a pre-sentence report be completed before the judge assess a sentence. If a pre-sentence report is requested, the report is written by a probation officer familiar with the case.

In Texas, a probation officer is employed by the local jurisdiction, in most cases, the Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) of the county where the case is being prosecuted. A pre-sentence report can be biased due to the fact that it is written and prepared by a probation officer who is employed by the government and who is often very familiar with the judge and the prosecutor. Consequently, some probation officers may desire a prison sentence as opposed to probation. The following are potential factors to consider:

  1. Probation officers are often over worked and under paid and as a result lack enthusiasm for their job and thus, choose the easiest path.
  2. Probation officers often favor or lean toward the prosecution.
  3. A large percentage of probation officers are very conservative and support prison sentences in most cases.

On a subconscious level, or perhaps on purpose in some cases, probation officers may place their particular bias or opinion in the pre-sentence report and advocate for a prison sentence. This occurs because individuals who are sent to prison no longer require management or supervision by the probation department and therefore, are cleared from the probation officer’s case load. The more cases that result in prison, the easier a probation officer’s job becomes. This troubling bias is unfortunately rampant in the system.

When a pre-sentence report is mandated by a judge, the procedure requires a probation officer to conduct an interview with the individual who has either pled guilty or been found guilty after a trial. During the interview the individual is requested to provide information and details regarding the facts of the case. An individual’s remorse, or lack thereof, and acceptance or denial of responsibility is often noted in the report and can be a factor that can impact the sentence in regard to prison versus probation. In addition, the individual’s personal history, criminal history, education background, employment history, and even their juvenile history may be investigated and included in the pre-sentence report. The probation officer has the authority to conduct interviews with others, such as witnesses or victims who may offer anything the probation deems relevant to the pre-sentence report.

Again this process allows for bias to enter the process as the probation officer has discretion as to who they choose to interview. Obviously, if all selected interviewees have negative opinions of the individual being sentenced, then these opinions weigh heavily in the report and shine a negative light upon the overall perception of the individual.

When A Plea Offer is the Option, Does Sentencing Happen Immediately?

In state system most plea agreements will allow for immediate sentencing when the judge feels sufficiently informed to make an immediate sentencing decision. In the state system a judge has the discretion to accept the plea and to request a pre-sentence report whenever the judge deems it may be necessary or helpful. However, in the federal system a pre-sentence report is always required, thus, sentencing in a federal case is often delayed until the pre-sentence investigation and report is completed by the probation officer.

In the state system, unless it is known that a pre-sentence report will be advantageous to a client it is best to avoid putting a client in a situation where the pre-sentence report may have a negative bearing on their sentencing. Staying ahead of the timeline and knowing in advance exactly how the events will play out, such as knowing if sentencing will be immediate or delayed, and whether there will be a pre-sentence report or not, is the smart move and will always be our objective when representing our clients. Our knowledge and experience of the sentencing process often gives our clients additional time to handle their personal affairs properly.

If Sentencing Mandates Incarceration, Will Jail Be Immediate?

Some individuals can be jailed immediately after sentencing, but again, this is something we often know in advance and advise our clients of beforehand. Many times we can appeal sentencing and ask for an appeal bond, which can allow an individual to avoid being taken into immediate custody. Often in federal cases, if the individual is already on pre-trial release then a delayed surrender date is requested and often granted.

For more information on Pre-Sentence Reports in Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 228-1400 today.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer James Alston represents clients in the Houston area, including Pasadena, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Channelview, Conroe, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, Rosenberg, Beaumont, Galveston County, Ft. Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Harris County and Jefferson County in Texas.