Pre-sentence investigations provide the court with important information about defendants and their offenses, prior to sentencing. The information is summarized in a pre-sentence report, which must be delivered to the judge at least 48 hours prior to sentencing. Copies are also provided to the prosecution and defense counsel.
At a minimum, a pre-sentence report includes law enforcement's version of the offense(s), the defendant's statement, the defendant's social history and prior record, victims' statements and restitution claims (if applicable), a listing of any mandatory sentencing provisions, and a sentencing recommendation.
The information contained in pre-sentence reports takes on added significance when one considers that more than 95% of criminal cases in Arizona are plea-bargained. Without pre-sentence reports, judges would have very little data on which to base their sentencing decisions.
The reports and the assessments they contain are critical documents for probation officers who must develop case plans to supervise offenders, and for prison officials and treatment providers who have similar requirements.
Most pre-sentence reports are prepared by probation officers assigned to the department's pre-sentence investigation unit. When the workload is especially heavy, field officers may be called upon to do reports. The information contained in these reports is entered into APETS, the Arizona Supreme Court's database of adult offenders. This allows officers around the state to call up offender profiles and know exactly whom they are dealing with.