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What Is a Presentence Report?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Raleigh criminal defense lawyerIn some cases, a criminal cases, conviction is unavoidable no matter how good your attorney is. Pleading guilty is sometimes the best move, and trials are always a risk because juries can be wildly unpredictable. After you are convicted or plead guilty, your case moves into what is called the sentencing phase. During this time period, the court will consider a large amount of information to determine what the appropriate sentence might be.  

In some felony or high-level misdemeanor cases, the judge may order a probation officer to conduct what is called a presentence investigation. A lawyer can help you during this period by emphasizing the good facts and circumstances that might lead to a lighter sentence and contextualizing or explaining any issues that could lead to a harsher sentence. Preparing for this phase requires strong criminal defense skills. 

What Information Does a Presentence Investigation Cover?

The goal of a presentence investigation is to put your offense into context so that the court has all the information it needs to determine an appropriate sentence. When these investigations are ordered, they can be extremely important. A good presentence report can mean the difference between prison and probation for some people. Information about you that may be gathered during a presentence investigation includes your: 


Raleigh criminal defense attorneyWhile everyone would like their criminal charges to be dismissed completely, or to be found not guilty, this is not always a realistic outcome. In some cases, there is overwhelming evidence, like when a crime is clearly captured by security cameras. In other cases, the risk of going to trial and being found guilty is intolerable to the defendant. In cases like these, the best course of action may be to accept a plea bargain. A plea bargain is essentially a deal worked out between a defendant, his lawyer, and the prosecutor. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor may offer reduced charges or reduced sentencing. Always consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the situation before agreeing to a plea bargain. 

How Does the Plea-Bargaining Process Work?

Typically, the prosecutor makes the first offer to your attorney. This begins the negotiating process. If you have a victim, their opinion may be taken into consideration. You and your attorney will discuss each offer the prosecution makes. This is where having an experienced criminal defense lawyer really helps - they will have a better understanding of how fair or reasonable a given offer is. Eventually, your lawyer and the prosecutor will arrive at a “final offer.” Your options then are to take the final offer or go to trial. 

What Are Some Benefits of a Plea Bargain?

The advantage of trial is that there is always a chance - however slim - that you could be found not guilty, in which case you are free to go with no consequences and no record. The risk is that you could be found guilty even if you are not, in which case you could face harsh sentencing. 


Wake County domestic violence charges attorneyThere is often much more than meets the eye in domestic violence cases. The classic narrative of an abusive man hitting his wife or girlfriend and going to jail for it simply does not reflect the reality in most contemporary domestic violence cases. Domestic violence most frequently occurs in the home, away from the prying eyes of potential neutral witnesses. Police often arrive to find a chaotic scene and very upset individuals. In the absence of obvious injuries, it can be quite difficult to figure out exactly what happened and who is primarily responsible for any violence that may or may not have occurred. If you are facing domestic violence charges, there are a few facts and considerations surrounding this charge that you should be aware of. 

What Should I Consider if I Have Been Accused of Domestic Violence?

Whether you are guilty or not, being charged with domestic violence has the potential to be a life-altering offense. Due to the not-always-accurate assumptions surrounding these cases, your career or educational opportunities could be affected. If you are up against this charge, you should be aware of these concerns: 

  • Self-defense - It is strikingly common for the victim of intimate partner abuse to be arrested while attempting to defend themselves. Abusers can be shockingly convincing when the police arrive. 
  • Family matters - The definition of domestic violence in North Carolina is not limited to violence between those who are currently in a romantic relationship. Violence between other close family or household members as well as former romantic partners can lead to domestic violence, rather than simple assault, being charged. 
  • False allegations - Allegations of domestic violence are often made during a contentious divorce or even a serious argument. These allegations are sometimes false, and made for the purpose of gaining the upper hand in divorce or child custody proceedings. 
  • Protection orders - After a domestic violence arrest, you may be served with a protection order, at or even in advance of your arraignment. This order will likely instruct you not to return to the premises where the alleged assault occurred or to contact the victim. In most cases, this means you cannot go home. It is very important that you obey this order - you do not want to be arrested a second time for violating it. Return to the premises only accompanied by the police to gather your personal items as the order instructs. 
  • Difficulty of dismissal - Even if the alleged victim wants to drop the charges, they may not have that choice. Prosecutors are very reluctant to dismiss domestic violence cases and may continue to prosecute these cases even over the victim’s objections. 

True domestic abuse is a very real problem in our society, across every socioeconomic level. However, domestic violation allegations do not always reflect the reality of your situation. If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is important to secure strong legal representation. 


shutterstock_608376650.jpgIt is reasonable to assume that you do not need to hire an attorney if you are not guilty of a crime. However, if you are suspected of engaging in criminal activity or you have been charged with a crime, it is important that you hire an attorney regardless of your innocence.  If you are required to appear in court, it is possible to represent yourself, should you wish to do so. Even though you have every right to self-represent, it is not advised that people facing criminal charges do so.  There are many reasons to hire a lawyer, even if you are not guilty of the charges you are facing. 

Charges Do Not Indicate Guilt 

Being charged with a crime does not mean you are guilty of the crime. It simply means you are suspected of the crime. 

The presumption of innocence is an integral part of the U.S. legal system. Even though innocent people often face criminal charges, they still need to defend themselves against the charges they are facing. 


NC defense lawyerWhile all criminal charges should be taken seriously, there are some types of offenses that are likely to result in severe penalties, including a long prison sentence, life in prison, or even the death penalty. Because violent crimes involve significant harm to an alleged victim and their loved ones, they are taken especially seriously by law enforcement. Murder and manslaughter can lead to particularly serious penalties, and those who have been accused of these crimes will want to understand the nature of the charges and their options for defense.

Murder and Manslaughter Charges Under North Carolina Law

An offense is generally considered to be murder if a person has wrongfully caused the death of someone else. The specific offense a person may be charged with will depend on the circumstances of the case. The laws in North Carolina define murder-related offenses as follows:

  • First-degree murder - A person may be charged with this crime if they allegedly killed someone in a manner that was deliberate, willful, and premeditated. This charge will also apply if a person allegedly committed murder through poisoning, starvation, imprisonment, or torture or if murder was committed alongside another violent crime or attempted violent crime, including sexual assault, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or another felony involving the use of a deadly weapon. First-degree murder is a Class A felony, and the maximum sentence for this offense is the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
  • Second-degree murder - A person may be charged with this offense if they allegedly killed someone in a manner that was not deliberate or premeditated. If a case does not meet the standards for first-degree murder, a person may be charged with a Class B1 felony, which has a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. If a person allegedly killed someone by committing an inherently dangerous act, or if they acted recklessly in a way that showed a disregard for human life, they may be charged with a Class B2 felony, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
  • Voluntary manslaughter - This offense involves intentionally killing someone else due to circumstances that would cause emotional distress to a reasonable person. A person may be charged with this crime if they allegedly killed a person while they were in the “heat of passion.” This is a Class D felony with a maximum prison sentence of 17 years.
  • Involuntary manslaughter - This crime involves unintentionally killing someone else due to reckless or negligent conduct. A person may be charged with this offense if they accidentally killed someone while they allegedly were committing a non-violent crime or if they caused someone’s death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This offense is a Class F felony, which carries a maximum sentence of four years and 11 months in prison.

Contact Our Smithfield Violent Crime Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with murder or a related offense, you will need to take the correct steps to mount an effective defense and determine how you can avoid being convicted. At Vasquez Law Firm, PLLC, we will help you determine the best defense strategy, and we will fight to protect your rights from the beginning to the end of your case. Contact our Johnston County criminal defense attorneys at 919-533-7000 to set up a free consultation today. Hablamos español.

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