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Presentence investigations important even in Trump’s case

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After a guilty verdict and before sentencing of a criminal defendant, the judge usually orders the probation department to conduct a presentence investigation to help guide the judge in sentencing.

As in the New York cases against Donald Trump, the probation department will assemble information from numerous sources to prepare a written report for Judge Juan Merchan to use as he prepares to render Trump’s sentence on July 11. 

The presentence report acts as a guide for a judge in decision making. 

On this edition of “Next Witness…Please,” retired judges Gayle Williams-Byers and Tom Hodson break down the elements of a presentence investigation. They explain how the pieces fit together to form a presentence report that is helpful to a judge prior to sentencing. 

They describe the elements of the investigation and which portions may be the most important to a judge in determining the appropriate sentence to give. 

Presentence reports generally contain information provided by both the prosecution and the defense in addition to information collected in a defendant interview conducted by the probation officer crafting the report. 

Presentence reports also may contain “victim impact statements” where a particular victim of the crime may explain to the judge the ramifications of the criminal activity. 

Judges generally share the written report with the prosecution and the defense before a sentencing hearing so each side can prepare for the hearing. The presentence report, however, is not a public record and it is not available to the news media.