Annual Meeting 2008

ABA Urges Presentence Info Be Shared

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Prosecutors and defense counsel should have access to material gathered by federal probation officers during their preparation of presentence reports, according to a resolution passed by the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates this afternoon.

The resolution calls on Congress to revise Rule 32 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow both sides to see the information that forms the basis of presentence reports, on which federal judges rely when determining the length of sentences.

“The probation officers do not share the information submitted to them with the parties. Indeed, probation officers are authorized to promise confidentiality to sources of information and to present information without revealing its source. Even in the absence of a probation officer’s grant of confidentiality to information sources, presentence investigation reports do not typically cite or reference the sources of information upon which their proposed factual findings are based,” according to the report for Resolution 104A (PDF).

The report noted that 75 of the nation’s 94 federal district courts have rules governing presentence investigation reports, but that those rules vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It said 13 courts have rules very similar to those the ABA recommends Congress adopt.

“We now have a sentencing system that is all over the map,” Miami lawyer Neal Sonnett told the House.

The resolution passed by an overwhelming voice vote. No one spoke in opposition.

Annual Meeting 2008:

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