THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRE-SENTENCE REPORT
Pursuant to the Act of 1974, December 30, P.L. 1052, No. 345, sec.
"Before sentencing any defendant to one year or longer, a pre-sentence investigation and report shall be made, unless the sentence is death or a mandatory sentence to life imprisonment, or unless the court specifically orders to the contrary. The report shall be made within 30 days from the date of conviction of defendant or within such greater time as the court shall direct."
Now in "Layman's terms", what actually happens is this:
1. The accused (Defendant) stands trial for his/her charges.
2. If the Defendant is found guilty (convicted), the Judge 'Defers' Sentencing (for approximately 90 days) and orders that a "Pre-Sentence Report" be conducted and completed during that time. Then, the Judge usually remands the Defendant to the custody of his/her county jail until 'Sentencing'. *** For proof of this, just check the end of your "Trial Transcripts" and pay close attention to what the judge says immediately following the 'guilty' verdict...
3. As soon as the Defendant's 'Sentencing Hearing' commences, the judge will immediately begin discussing the results of the "Pre-Sentence Report' with the Defendant's Attorney and the Prosecutor (Usually an Assistant District Attorney). All of this is done during the 'Sentencing Hearing' before the Judge imposes the sentence. *** For proof of this, just check your 'Sentencing Hearing' transcripts...
4. Then the Judge asks the Defendant if there is anything he/she wishes to say before the sentence is imposed... (This pocedural requirement is known as "Allocution". For a more in-depth explanation on Allocution, go to the homepage of PAsentenicng.com and click on 'THE SENTENCING HEARING' option)
After reading the above process, you may be asking yourself, "What is the Pre-Sentence Report, and what is it's importance to me?" Well...
The Pre-sentence Report, according to enacted statutes, is a detailed history of the Defendant that is supposed to be used by the Judge to assist in determining a proper sentence to be imposed. Again, according to enacted statutes, the Pre-Sentence Report is supposed to include:
- Circumstances attending the commission of the crime,
- Defendant's family situation and background,
- Defendant's economic status and education,
- Defendant's occupation
- Defendant's personal habits
- Psychiatric evaluation of the Defendant,
- Defendant's criminal history, and
- Any other matters that the person preparing the report
deems relevant, or that the courts direct to be included.
Notwithstanding, the above explanation of what a 'Pre-Sentence Report' is supposed to be according to law, the 'Pre-Sentence Report' is actually nothing more than a "Fact Finder" that the Court uses to label the Defendant as a "Threat To The Public, If Left At Large". This effectively brings the Defendant under Pennsylvania's "Police Powers" (legally referred to as "Parens Patriae"). In other words, this 'Report' is clinical in nature and indicates that the Defendant is suffering from a diminished capacity which requires a more efficient punishment, treatment, and rehabilitation. The rationale for this 'Report' is to identify people who represent a dangerous element in the community which the Legislature may put under appropriate control.
QUESTION: What constitutes 'Appropriate control' ?
ANSWER: Total Confinement.
The term Total Confinement "within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" referres to the incarceration of a convicted defendant in a state Correctional Institution. Total Confinement is defined as: Punishment and Rehabilitation of two or more years, imposed upon a convicted defendant by a court of law based on the circumstances governing the crime, the mental condition of the offender, the educational background of the offender, and other related factors. [See: 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9725.]
Many of you reading this may be wondering:
How are "Total Confinement" and the "Pre-Sentence Report" directly related to each other?...
Well, it should be duly noted that no person can be sentenced to serve a term of Total Confinement unless the judge first obtains the necessary information that is provided within a Pre-Sentence Report. [ See: 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9725.]
[ Editor's Note: The above statutory law containing the requirement and extent of the Pre-Sentence Report was transferred in 1980 with the passing of the Act of October 5, P.L. 693, No. 142, and statutes 18 Pa.C.S. Section 1331 through 1337 became 42 Pa.C.S. Sections 9731 through 9737. However, as of today, statutes 42 Pa.C.S. Sections 9731 - 9737 are currently suspended for being inconsistent with Pa.R.Crim.P. 702 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Court.]
Once the requirement of a Pre-Sentence Report became law, unbridled discretion was given to Judges to impose 'Total Confinement' regardless if the Act defining the crime already fixed the punishment or not.
Although any negative findings of the Pre-Sentence report do not constitute a new crime, such findings do give the Judge authority to impose a term of Total Confinement pursuant to the Alternative Sentence Subchapter (which is found at Subchapter C of the Sentencing Code). Furthermore, what makes the report even less trustworthy is that it is prepared by some "unknown person" and classified as a 'Private Record', never to be read or seen by the Defendant!
Contrary to what you've been told and made to believe, the Judge does not decide the sentence based on evidence produced in open court at trial. Nor is the Judge confined to the issues of guilt "at trial". Courts are not permitted to mete out punishment based on the mere fact of the crime. (Com. v. Devers, 546 A. 2D 12, 519 Pa. 88). The Judge's objective is simply to determine the type and length of punishment once the issue of guilt is established. (This changes slightly if you have a trial by Judge instead of a trial by Jury). Once you fully realize the Judge's only objective, you'll understand that a 'Guilty' verdict from the Jury is only the "1st Finding of Fact" which is needed to "Identify" the offender as the correct perpetrator of the crime. The 'Pre-Sentence report' is the "2nd Finding of Fact" which is needed for the Judge to impose an 'Indeterminate Sentence'.
In summary, you should do everything in your power to challenge "every inch" of the Pre-Sentence Report that was used to determine your sentence.
SEEK TRUTH... BE AWARE... MAKE A DIFFERENCE
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of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other related subject matter. However, this website was not created by persons licensed to practice law throughout the state of
Pennsylvania. PAsentencing.com should not be construed as a substitute for the advice or representation of an attorney, but rather an aid towards addressing specific aspects concerning illegal
sentencing procedures throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
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