Once a defendant is arrested by federal agents, a probation officer conducts an expeditious, yet thorough background investigation of the defendant. The majority of the information is provided by the defendant during an interview shortly after arrest, which is normally conducted just prior to the defendant's first appearance in court. After interviewing the defendant, the probation officer will either corroborate or challenge the information provided by the defendant, and obtain additional information. The probation officer's investigation may include contacting the defendant's family, friends, associates, law enforcement agencies, and/or financial institutions. The information provided by the defendant is not used to determine guilt, but rather the defendant's suitability for release from federal custody. The probation officer's duty is to identify defendants who are likely to fail to appear at future court hearings, or are likely to present a threat to the community. The probation officer must balance the presumption that the defendant is "innocent until proven guilty," with the reality that some defendants may flee the jurisdiction or present a threat to the community.
If the probation officer believes there is a likelihood the defendant may fail to appear in court, the officer recommends a financial bond, which the defendant or the defendant's "surety" (usually a family member, business associate or close friend) would forfeit should the defendant fail to appear in court. In addition, the probation officer may recommend conditions of release such as: not to possess weapons; not to have contact with victims or witnesses; not to use alcohol or drugs; restricting the defendant's travel and/or with whom the defendant associates; requiring the defendant to seek and maintain employment; requiring the defendant to obtain education or training; and surrender a passport, among others. Release conditions are tailored to the individual defendant, but always include the standard condition that the defendant is not to commit any crimes during the period of release. In any case, it is the probation officer's statutory responsibility to recommend the least restrictive conditions that would reasonably assure the defendant's appearance in court. If no combination of conditions ensures future appearance, or if the defendant is viewed to be a danger to the community, detention is then recommended.
Once the investigation is completed, the probation officer submits a report to the court with the appropriate recommendation which assists the court in making an informed decision regarding the defendant's release or detention pending trial. If the defendant is released on bond, probation officers monitor compliance, provide necessary support services, and inform the court and the U.S. Attorney's Office of all apparent violations of supervision. The probation officer will supervise the defendant until the defendant's case is disposed.
Selection of an appropriate sentence is one of the most important decisions to be made in the criminal justice system. The primary vehicle to assist the sentencing court in fulfilling this responsibility is the presentence investigation report.
As community corrections professionals, probation officers preparing presentence investigation reports possess and use skills from various disciplines to investigate relevant facts about defendants; assess those facts in light of the purposes of sentencing; apply the appropriate guidelines, statutes, and rules to the available facts; and provide accurate, timely, and objective reports that will assist the sentencing judges in determining appropriate sentences, aid the Bureau of Prisons in making classification, designation and programming decisions, and assist the probation officer during supervision of the offender in the community.
The probation officer's role as the court's independent investigator is crucial, although the scope of any investigation may be modified by the court. Probation officers may receive information from all parties, but are cautious about adopting any party's interpretation outright. It is the probation officer's responsibility to prepare all sections of the presentence report, including the advisory guideline range. Attorneys for opposing sides may aggressively contest the accuracy of facts contained in the presentence report or application of the guidelines to those facts. Probation officers are prepared to respond to these situations professionally by having all supporting documentation readily at hand. Throughout the investigation, the probation officers treat the defendant, the attorneys and others with dignity and respect. The probation officer's objectivity and professionalism during the presentence and sentencing phases promote the fair treatment of the defendant, and may instill in the defendant the desire to cooperate with corrections and community corrections officials in the latter phases of the federal criminal justice system.
(Admin. Order 95-02)
Sentencing proceedings shall be scheduled by each District Judge no earlier than 70 days following entry of a guilty plea or a verdict of guilty. The presentence investigation report, including guideline computations, shall be completed and made available for disclosure to the attorneys for the parties at least 35 days prior to the scheduled sentencing proceedings, unless the defendant waives this minimum period. Within five days following entry of a guilty plea or a verdict of guilty, counsel for the defendant and the probation officer will have made arrangements for the initial interview of the defendant for the presentence investigation report. Within 14 days of receipt of the report, counsel for the defendant and the government must communicate any objections, in writing, to each other and to the probation officer. The probation officer may meet with counsel and the defendant to discuss the objections and may conduct a further investigation and revise the report as appropriate. Seven days prior to the sentencing hearing, the probation officer must submit to the court the final report and an addendum containing unresolved issues. The presentence investigation report (if revised) and the addendum will also be made available to all counsel. Counsel for the parties shall confer no later than seven days prior to the scheduled sentencing hearing proceeding with respect to the anticipated length of the sentencing and the number of witnesses to be called. If either party reasonably anticipates that the sentencing proceeding will exceed one hour, the party shall file a notice with the Clerk of the Court and shall hand deliver a courtesy copy to the United States Probation Office no later than five days prior to the sentencing proceeding. The notice shall advise the Court of the number of witnesses to be called and the estimated time required for the sentencing proceeding. Additionally, counsel for the parties shall file within the same time period any notice for enhancement of sentence or requests for departure. The recommendation as to sentencing made to the Court by the probation office shall remain confidential. Counsel for the parties may retain the presentence investigation report in their custody, and counsel for the defendant shall provide a copy to the defendant. However, the presentence investigation report is a confidential document and neither the parties nor their counsel is authorized to duplicate or disseminate it to third parties without prior permission of the Court.
(Admin. Order 2003-08)
Pursuant to Local Rule 88.8 and Administrative Order 95-02, protocols were established for the completion of Presentence Investigations to govern sentencing procedures within the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 and the Amendments to Rule 32, effective December 1. 1994. At the request of the Court, the United States Probation Office has established the following additional protocols for the completion of Expedited Presentence Investigation Reports upon waiver of the 70 day sentencing provision: 1.) The Expedited Presentence Investigation Report may include only defendants with Guidelines' range of 0-6 months; 2.) Prior to the plea of guilty, counsel for the defendant must contact the United States Probation Office to arrange a date and time for the defendant's interview by a Probation Officer for the Expedited Presentence Investigation Report; 3.) Prior to the interview, the defendant and counsel will sign PROB 13E, Consent to Institute Presentence Investigation and Disclose the Report Before Conviction or Plea of Guilty; 4.) Upon completion of the interview, counsel for the defendant will notify the Court and request a Plea/Sentencing date; 5.) If there are no extenuating circumstances, the sentencing date will be scheduled 15 to 30 days after the Expedited Presentence Investigation Reports interview with the defendant; 6.) The standard rules of disclosure pursuant to Administrative Order 95-02 will not apply; and 7.) The United States Probation Office shall transmit the Expedited Presentence Investigation Report to the Court not later than two days prior to sentencing. Failure to comply with any of the procedures established herein may result in the invocation of sentencing protocols set forth under Local Rule 88.8 and Administrative Order 95-02.