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M. YOUR PRESENTENCE INVESTIGATION REPORT, PSI
After you plead guilty you will be dragged from the quiet
and comfort of your prison cell to meet with a probation officer.
This has absolutely nothing to do with getting probation. Quite
the contrary. The P.O. is empowered by the court to prepare a
complete and, in theory, unbiased profile of the defendant. Everything
from education, criminal history, psychological behavior, offense
characteristics plus more will be included in this voluminous
and painfully detailed report about your life. Every little dirty
scrap of information that makes you look like a sociopathic, demon
worshiping, loathsome criminal will be included in this report.
They'll put a few negative things in there as well.
My advice is simple. Be careful what you tell them. Have your
attorney present and think about how what you say can be used
against you. Here's an example:
P.O.: Tell me about your education and what you like to do
in your spare time.
Mr. Steal: I am preparing to enroll in my final year of college.
In my spare time I work for charity helping orphan children.
The PSR then reads "Mr. Steal has never completed his
education and hangs around with little children in his spare time."
Get the picture?
J. PROCEEDING PRO SE
Pro Se or Pro Per is when a defendant represents himself.
A famous lawyer once said "a man that represents himself
has a fool for a client." Truer words were never spoken.
However, I can't stress how important it is to fully understand
the criminal justice system. Even if you have a great attorney
it's good to be able to keep an eye on him or even help out. An
educated client's help can be of enormous benefit to an attorney.
They may think you're a pain in the ass but it's your life. Take
a hold of it. Regardless, representing yourself is generally a
However, after your appeal, when your court appointed attorney
runs out on you, or you have run out of funds, you will be forced
to handle matters yourself. At this point there are legal avenues,
although quite bleak, for post-conviction relief.
But I digress. The best place to start in understanding the
legal system lies in three inexpensive books. First the Federal
Sentencing Guidelines ($14.00) and Federal Criminal Codes and
Rules ($20.00) are available from West Publishing at 800-328-9
352. I consider possession of these books to be mandatory for
any pretrial inmate. Second would be the Georgetown Law Journal,
available from Georgetown University Bookstore in Washington,
DC. The book sells for around $40.00 but if you write them a letter
and tell them you're a Pro Se litigant they will send it for free.
And last but not least the definitive Pro Se authority, "The
Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual" $29.95 ISBN
0-379-20831-8. Or try http://www.oceanalaw.com/books/n148.htm
O. EVIDENTIARY HEARING
If you disagree with some of the information presented in
the presentence report (PSR) you may be entitled to a special
hearing. This can be instrumental in lowering your sentence or
correcting your PSR. One important thing to know is that your
PSR will follow you the whole time you are incarcerated. The Bureau
of Prisons uses the PSR to decide how to handle you. This can
affect your security level, your halfway house, your eligibility
for the drug program (which gives you a year off your sentence)
,and your medical care. So make sure your PSR is accurate before
you get sentenced!
P. GETTING YOUR PROPERTY BACK
In most cases it will be necessary to formally ask the court
to have your property returned. They are not going to just call
you up and say "Do you want this Sparc Station back or what?"
No, they would just as soon keep it and not asking for it is as
good as telling them they can have it.
You will need to file a 41(e) "Motion For Return Of Property."
The courts' authority to keep your stuff is not always clear and
will have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. They may not care
and the judge will simply order that it be returned.
If you don't know how to write a motion, just send a formal
letter to the judge asking for it back. Tell him you need it for
your job. This should suffice, but there may be a filing fee.
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