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Presentence Unit

Presentence is the period after a defendant has been criminally convicted of a federal offense and prior to the date of sentencing. Upon conviction when a defendant enters a formal plea of guilty or is found guilty by trial, the court often orders an investigation formally referred to as a presentence investigation report. U.S. Probation Officers ("probation officers") deliver services on behalf of the court, the community, and the defendant. The defendant will meet with the officer, typically within 14 days of the date of conviction. At the meeting, the officer will conduct an interview with the defendant to gather information including, but not limited to, the following:

  • family history,
  • community ties,
  • education background,
  • employment history,
  • physical health,
  • mental and emotional health,
  • history of substance abuse, financial condition, and
  • willingness to accept responsibility for his or her offense(s).

During this investigative process, a probation officer will also interview other persons who can provide pertinent information, including the prosecutor, law enforcement agents, victims, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, and the defendant's family members, associates, and employer. The probation officer will review numerous documents such as the charging document(s), plea agreement, criminal docket, applicable trial transcripts, investigative reports from law enforcement agencies, criminal history records, counseling and substance abuse treatment records, scholastic records, employment records, and financial records.

Home Visit

When possible, the probation officer conducts a home visit to meet the defendant and the defendant's family at his/her residence. During the visit, the probation officer conducts interviews with the family and assesses the defendant's living conditions and suitability for potential supervision conditions, such as location monitoring.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences ("ACEs") are adversities children face in their home environment which include various forms of physical and emotional abuse; neglect; and household dysfunction during childhood (birth to age 17). A meta-analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") demonstrated a correlation between the more ACEs experienced and the greater the chance individuals are to experience negative behavioral and health outcomes.

As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for negative behavioral and health outcomes, such as traumatic brain injury; depression; anxiety; post-traumatic stress disorder; suicide; unintended pregnancy; and alcohol/drug abuse.

Defendants may be asked by a probation officer to complete an ACE assessment during the presentence investigation process.

Learn more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Presentence Report

It is the responsibility of the probation officer assigned to conduct a presentence investigation to assist the court by verifying, evaluating, and interpreting the information gathered, and to present the information to the court in an organized and objective presentence report. Another important part of the preparation of a presentence report involves the probation officer's investigation into the offense of conviction including the defendant's involvement, in any similar or uncharged criminal conduct, the impact of the offense on the victim(s), and the available sentencing options under the applicable federal statutes and U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The presentence report helps the court fashion appropriate and fair sentences and is used by probation officers later assigned to supervise the defendant. The supervision officer uses the information contained in the presentence report as part of a comprehensive approach to assess risks posed by, and the needs of, persons under supervision.

The report is also disclosed to defense counsel (who reviews the report with the defendant) and prosecutor, whom each have the opportunity to make objections or seek editorial changes to the presentence report through a formal process established by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Following conviction, defendants often continue to report to, and be supervised by, probation officers in the Pretrial Services unit. Generally, all previously ordered conditions of release remain in effect. On occasion, conditions may be modified by the court. The defendant's adjustment to pretrial supervision is detailed in the presentence report. It is important the defendant on pretrial release supervision adhere to court-ordered conditions of release. Non-compliance or violations incurred between the time of conviction and sentencing can have an adverse impact due to application of the advisory guidelines.


Probation officers conducting the presentence investigation play an integral role in the federal sentencing process. Although practices differ among the various districts, a probation officer may, at the conclusion of a presentence investigation, work with his or her supervisor to formulate an appropriate sentencing recommendation that will be provided to the court. The officer must be prepared to discuss the case with the sentencing judge, to answer questions about the report that may arise during the sentencing hearing, and on rare occasions to testify in court as to the basis for the factual findings and guideline applications set forth in the presentence report.

After sentencing, these presentence reports are utilized by the Bureau of Prisons to designate the institutions appropriate for a defendant to serve their sentences, to select prison programs to help the defendants while incarcerated, and to develop case plans for their custody and eventual release.

The report is also forwarded to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which uses the report to monitor the application of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and to gather statistics about sentencing trends.

What is voluntary surrender?

At sentencing, if not immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, the court may allow the defendant to voluntarily surrender or self-surrender to an institution for an imposed term of incarceration. The defendant may remain under Pretrial Services supervision until he/she reports to the designated Bureau of Prisons facility or to the U.S. Marshals Service. Defendants who are subject to Pretrial Services supervision are notified by their probation officer of the self-surrender details, which usually is known within 14 business following the date of sentencing.

How can I get a copy of a presentence report?

Presentence reports are highly confidential documents and will only be released to the defendant by their defense counsel. Reports are disclosed to the defense counsel, the prosecutor, and the court. Absent a court order, no other party is entitled to a copy of the presentence report. If you think you are, for some other reason, entitled to a copy of the presentence report, you may contact a duty officer to discuss the matter.

Voting Rights

Eligible voters may legally vote in every state. Your criminal record does not affect your right to vote in Minnesota unless you are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction. You can vote in Minnesota if you are not incarcerated, including if you are on parole.

You can vote if:

  • You were charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor
  • You are in jail but not currently serving a felony sentence
  • You have been charged with a felony but you have not been convicted
  • You have been given a stay of adjudication
  • You have been convicted of a felony but are not incarcerated

For more information regarding your voting rights in the state of Minnesota, contact the Minnesota Secretary of State at 1-877-600-VOTE or You may also confer with your legal counsel.

Read more about Probation Officers in the judiciary.