Pretrial Services Officers play an integral role in the administration of justice. Officers balance the defendant's right to pretrial release with the court's concern that the defendant appear in court as required and not endanger the public. An important service officers provide to the court is conducting Pretrial Services investigations for defendants charged with federal crimes. The officer gathers and verifies important information about the defendant and his or her suitability for pretrial release.
Based upon the investigation findings, the officer prepares a report that helps the court make an informed release or detention decision. The officer considers both danger and non-appearance factors before making a recommendation to the court to release or detain the defendant. The officer's mandate is to recommend to the court the least restrictive conditions that will reasonably assure the defendant appears in court and poses no danger to the community.
Presentence officers serve as the court's fact-finders by investigating offenders who are convicted of crimes and awaiting sentencing. Presentence investigation reports help the court impose fair sentences for offenders in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines and applicable federal law. By order of the court, the officer gathers and verifies information about the offender and the offense by conducting interviews and reviewing documents. The officer interprets and evaluates the information gathered and presents it to the court in an organized, objective report.
The primary purpose of the presentence report is to provide information that enables the court to impose a fair sentence which satisifes the punishment, deterrence, and corrective goals of sentencing. The officer considers applicable statutes and the sentencing guidelines, applies them to the facts of the case, and formulates a recommended sentence and justification. The officer also recommends conditions of release.
The presentence report not only helps the court determine an appropriate sentence, but provides important information that is useful to other agencies. The report is used by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for offender placement, programming and release planning purposes. The U.S. Sentencing Commission also utilizes this information to monitor sentencing guideline application on a national level. The supervising U.S. Probation Officer also relies upon this report to assess the risk the offender poses as well as the offender's needs.
United States Sentencing Commission
The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch of government. Its principal purposes are:
- To establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal courts, including guidelines to be consulted regarding the appropriate form and severity of punishment for offenders convicted of federal crimes;
- To advise and assist Congress and the executive branch in the development of effective and efficient crime policy;
- To collect, analyze, research, and distribute a broad array of information on federal crime and sentencing issues, serving as an information resource for Congress, the executive branch, the courts, criminal justice practitioners, the academic community, and the public
For information from the US Sentencing Commission please visit the United States Sentencing Commission Website.