Position Statement

Probation Pre-Sentence Investigation
Enacted: Jan 1987

The primary purpose of the pre-sentence report is to provide the sentencing court with succinct and precise information upon which to base a rational sentencing decision. Potential use of the report by other agencies in the correctional process should be recognized as a factor in determining the content and length of the report but should be subordinated to its primary purpose. Where the pre-sentence investigation discloses information useful to other agencies, methods should be developed to assure that this data is made available for their use.


Independence of Report

The value of probation services to the administration of justice is directly related to the degree of independence exercised by the probation officer in presenting the analysis and specific sentencing recommendations to the court on cases under investigation or supervision. Therefore, except as may be set forth in the law, neither courts nor any other agency or organization shall prescribe or proscribe either directly or indirectly the content of the probation officer's analysis and recommendation. Nothing in this standard shall prohibit the court from recommending or ordering that additional information be included and analyzed in any particular case(s). Similarly, the court may recommend but not order that certain information be omitted from probation reports. Whether or not such information is omitted must be decided by the probation officer in terms of the officer's independent decision on its importance to the case(s) and the officer's analysis and recommendation on the case(s).

Availability and Use of Court Report

Probation officers should have the resources and support staff available to make timely pre-sentence investigations and reports in all matters referred to them.

The court should continue to explicitly be authorized by statute to call for such an investigation and report in every case. The statute should also provide that a pre-sentence investigation and report should be required in every felony court case and should not be waived by the defendant unless a recent pre-sentence report is available.


It is the responsibility of the probation officer to establish, maintain and implement written guidelines and policies for the conduct of all investigations. This will include the content, preparation and submission of all investigative reports.

Content, Scope and Length of Report

Pre-sentence reports should be flexible in format, reflecting a difference in the background of different offenders and making the best use of available resources and probation department capabilities. A full report should normally contain the following items:

  1. A complete description of the offense and circumstances surrounding it, not limited to the aspects developed for the record as part of the determination of guilt.
  2. A statement from the victim and a description of the victim's status, the impact upon the victim, losses suffered by the victim and restitution due the victim.
  3. A full description of any prior criminal record of the offender.
  4. A description of the educational background of the offender.
  5. A description of the employment background of the offender, including military record and including his present employment status, financial status and capabilities.
  6. The social history of the offender, including family relationships, marital status, interests and activities, residence history and religious affiliations.
  7. The offender's medical history and, if desirable, a psychological or psychiatric report.
  8. Information about environments to which the offender might return or to which he could be sent should probation be granted.
  9. Supplementary reports from clinics, institutions and other social agencies with which the offender has been involved.
  10. Information about special resources which might be available to assist the offender, such as treatment centers, residential facilities, vocational training services, special educational facilities, rehabilitation programs of various institutions in which the offender might be committed, special programs in the probation department and other similar programs which are particularly relevant to the offender's situation.
  11. A summary and analysis of the most significant aspects of the report, including specific recommendations as to the sentence. A special effort should be made in the preparation of pre-sentence reports not to burden the court with irrelevant and unconnected details.

Criteria for Recommending Probation

The probation decision should be rooted in the facts and circumstances of each case considering the nature and circumstances of the crime, prior criminal record of the individual, the history and character of the offender and available institutional and community resources. Probation should be the sentence unless the sentencing court finds that:

  1. Confinement is necessary to protect the public from further criminal activity by the offender.
  2. The offender is in need of correctional treatment which can most effectively be provided if he is confined.
  3. It would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense if sentence of probation were imposed.
  4. The legislature has designated the offense for which the offender was convicted as one for which probation cannot be granted.

In formulating this recommendation for or against probation for a sentence or other disposition, the kind of conviction (plea,, trial or intent to appeal) will not be a factor either to increase or decrease the severity in the recommended course of action.

Determination of Conditions of Probation Recommendations

It should be a condition of every recommendation for probation that the probationer lead a law-abiding life during the period of his probation. No other conditions should be required by statute, but the probation officer in making recommendations should recommend additional conditions to fit the circumstances of each case. Development of standard conditions as a guide to making recommendations for probation is appropriate, so long as such conditions are not routinely imposed.

Conditions recommended should be designed to assist the probationer in leading a law-abiding life. They should be reasonably related to the avoidance of further criminal behavior and not unduly restrictive of the probationer's liberty or incompatible with his freedom of religion. They should not be so vague or ambiguous as to give no real guidance.

Conditions may appropriately include, but not be necessarily limited to, matters such as the following:

  1. Cooperating with the program of supervision.
  2. Meeting family responsibilities.
  3. Maintaining steady employment or engaging or refraining from engaging in a specific employment or occupation.
  4. Pursuing prescribed educational or vocational training.
  5. Undergoing medical or psychiatric treatment.
  6. Maintaining residence in a prescribed area or in a prescribed facility established for, or available to, persons on probation.
  7. Refraining from consorting with certain types of people or frequenting certain types of places.
  8. Making restitution for the fruits of the crime or reparation for losses or damages caused thereby.
  9. Paying fines, restitution, reparation or family support.
  10. Requiring the probationer to submit to search and seizure.
  11. Requiring the probationer to submit to drug tests; i.e., urine tests for analysis as directed by the probation officer.


Recommendations to the court contained in disposition and sentencing reports should make provisions for the payment of fines commensurate with the circumstances of the offense and the defendant's capabilities of paying within the limitations of his total financial resources.

The use of the fine is a significant element in the correctional process and in reducing the financial impact of crime upon the community. As such, it should be considered in every plan for community-based supervision.

The court may direct the probation officer to prepare pre-plea investigation reports. These reports furnish the court and opposing counsel verified information and evaluation on which to establish an appropriate decision.

Prior to conducting a pre-plea investigation, the offender will be advised that all statements made during the investigation will not be used against him if he decides to go to trial.

If the offender subsequently pleads or is found guilty, the report prepared for the pre-plea hearing may be resubmitted for the court's consideration at the time of the offender's sentencing hearing.