A key part of the presentence investigation and sentencing is establishing, documenting, and verifying community support. The most common method is through reference or collateral contact letters written to the judge. Frequently this information is excluded from presentence reports prepared by the government and if they are provided by defense counsel at the time of sentencing is may be to late for the judge to adequately read or consider them in a meaningful way.

Similarly, some letters naturally carry more weight or factor more heavily into the judges deliberations when fashioning the appropriate and fair sentence to be imposed in your case. Likewise, there is no “magic number” of letters to include. Typically, if probation chooses to include any that are provided they will only select one or two, which may or may not be the best ones.

In many cases, letters are insufficient to accurately portray your life experiences and events. Under these circumstances it may be appropriate to gather additional information through in-person or telephone interviews. Something probation officers are generally unwilling or unable to do. These collateral interviews frequently provide additional information and evidence of mitigating factors as well as components of the case plan.

The latter is particularly true in terms of living arrangements, employment, or education plans following sentencing. In this sense, mitigation extends beyond the sentence that is imposed into community supervision. Having a solid case plan and support in the community to make it a reality is a key result of the collateral contact process.