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Tap Dancing Through the Minefield: Navigating the Presentence Process
By Jennifer Niles Coffin
Given the current state of the law, the presentence report generated by
the probation office functions as the most powerful inertial force in
the sentencing process. Defense counsel must continue to be actively
engaged during the period between the finding of guilt and sentencing.
Although this list is by no means exhaustive, below are some things to
remember as your client navigates the shadowland between the guilty plea
Rule 32 sets forth the basic procedures governing the presentence
interview and report process. First and foremost, defense counsel has a
right to be present at the presentence interview. Although most
probation officers provide notice as a matter of course, defense counsel
should be aware that Rule 32 entitles counsel to notice and an
opportunity to attend the interview only “upon request.”1 Always request
notice and always attend the presentence interview.
After the interview, Rule 32(e) requires the probation office
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