P

Probation

A sentencing option instead of a sentence of imprisonment, although probation may involve a condition of a short amount of incarceration (such as weekends in jail), confinement in a halfway house, or home detention. A person on probation is monitored by a probation officer and must follow certain rules announced by the judge at the time of sentencing and listed on the judgment form.

Parole

A form of conditional early release from prison (before the full term of imprisonment expires). Upon violation of a parole condition, a parolee may be placed back in prison to complete the remainder of the sentence. In the federal system, parole was abolished with the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 and does not apply to defendants sentenced for offenses committed on or after November 1, 1987.

Plea Agreement

An agreement whereby a defendant pleads guilty instead of proceeding to trial. The agreement contains promises that the prosecutor and defendant must each abide by. Each party to the plea agreement usually gains some benefit and gives up (or waives) a right in return for that benefit.

Plea

A statement, generally of guilty or not guilty, made formally by the defendant before the judge.

Prosecutor

Representative of the Department of Justice (in federal court) responsible for bringing and prosecuting charges against a person or organization. The prosecutor represents the interests of society. Less formally referred to as “the government”.

Probation Officer

An officer of the court responsible for monitoring offenders on probation or supervised release. Probation officers also conduct presentence investigations on offenders and write presentence reports to determine the proper guideline range and to provide the judge with information about the defendant relevant to sentencing.

Presentence Report (“PSR”)

A report, filed under seal by a probation officer, which contains information about the offense and offender, the statutory range of punishment, and the guidelines calculation, as well as any bases for imposing a sentence above or below the guideline range.

Presentence Writer

A probation officer who conducts presentence investigations of defendants and writes presentence reports containing the guidelines determinations and other information relevant to sentencing.

Pretrial Services Officer

An officer of the court responsible for monitoring a person who has been charged with a federal offense and has been released on bond while that person awaits trial or sentencing.

Predicate Offense

A prior conviction that is the basis of an increased sentence for the instant offense.