When Is a Defendant Sentenced to Probation?
Interviewer: Will probation will only occur after someone has been convicted or they pled guilty, or can it happen before their case is heard?
Probation Officers Also Supervise Diversion Programs
Adam: Both. Usually when someone has pled guilty, we also have diversion programs. If someone wants to enter into a treatment program, if they successfully complete it, then they can get their case dismissed. We supervise those programs. We also do sentencing reports for the court.
At the Judge’s Request, Probation Officers Report on Defendant’s Situations Before Sentencing
If someone pleads guilty and a judge wants more information about the person before he sentences him or her, then he refers him or her to us. Then we interview them and find out what their needs might be. We try to find out, “How did you get in this position in the first place? Is there anything we can do to help you so you don’t get in this position again?” Then we turn those reports in to the judge.
Interviewer:The court wants to know the particulars of people’s situations and not just rely on what they’ve heard in court before they sentence them?
Interviewer: I’m surprised. I didn’t think the court would do that. There’s probably a benefit to the person before they are being sentenced so that they can show themselves in a human light and a good light.
The Probation Officer’s Report Affords the Defendant a Chance to Explain their Personal Situation to the Judge
Adam: Absolutely. It’s a chance to write a statement to the judge if they want to, explaining themselves in their own words, which they might not get to do in court prior to that, if they’re pleading guilty.
If they go to trial, obviously, that’s different. They plead their case, but if they plead before a trial, then the report affords them the chance to tell the judge the particulars of the situation and the judge can learn about them.
Unless they go to trial, the judge doesn’t really know anything about the person other than, “This is what you’re charged with” and that’s it. It’s a benefit.
Interviewer: Are you allowed to counsel people when they do this interview, or you just have to be completely neutral and show no favoritism and let them say what they’re going to say?
The Interview with the Probation Officer Can Educate the Defendant About Treatment Options
Adam: Both. We’ll let them say what they want to say. I’ll offer suggestions if they’re willing to take them. Some defendants aren’t willing to listen, but if the person has a drug problem and they say, “I know I have a problem. I want to get help, but I don’t know where to go.”
I will give them all the information that they need to help them get there, even before they’re sentenced. Even before they are officially on probation and have to do it, we’ll help them out, if we’re able to, and if they’re willing to accept it.
By Adam Hunt