What Is the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI)?
If you or someone you know has been convicted of a crime, a sentence will follow. The presentence investigation is a crucial part of the sentencing process that allows a probation officer to gather information about the convicted person and the crime.
During the presentence investigation, the probation officer will turn the information they’ve gathered into a report known as the presentence investigation report, or PSIR. This report is a crucial piece of the presentencing puzzle that can help the judge determine what type of sentence you should get.
If you’re new to the PSI process, this guide has all the details you need to know about what’s in the report, how your PSI interview will work, and what happens after your interview.
What Is a PSI Report?
A PSI report is the document that outlines everything a probation officer has gathered about you and the crime you were convicted of. These reports are typically reserved for felony crimes either at the state or federal prison level. The judge uses the PSIR to determine what type of sentencing is fair for you to receive based on several factors surrounding your criminal history and the crime at hand.
The PSIR is a culmination of a lot of information, so you can expect it to include all the details necessary for a judge to make a fair decision on your behalf. PSI reports don’t happen in just a few hours. Instead, a probation officer will usually spend several weeks creating the full document that consists of information pulled from your attorney, victims, police reports, and yourself.
The presentence investigation report is often used to help a defendant receive a lighter sentence, but it may also do the opposite, depending on the information a probation officer finds and how cooperative a convicted criminal is in the process.
What Is Included in a Presentence Investigation PSI Report?
The PSIR includes a significant amount of information about your personal history, criminal background, employment history, financial history, and the crime you were convicted with. The report’s goal is to give the judge a clear understanding of your current state, your state when you committed the crime, and any potential motives for committing the crime.
The information in the report will be used to guide your sentencing. Therefore, a complete PSIR will contain details like:
- Your statements/version of the crime and those from victims and witnesses
- Your mental state when the crime was committed and now
- Any past substance abuse problems
- Results of drug tests, if necessary
- Anything you’ve been doing since committing the crime that could be viewed as positive steps
You and your attorney will play an important role in providing a lot of the necessary information for the probation officer to include in the PSI report.
Who Prepares the Presentence Investigation Report?
A probation officer is the person charged with gathering the information for, researching, and writing the PSIR. However, the report is very much a group effort, as a probation officer must tap into several resources to be able to write a complete and accurate PSIR.
The probation officer, for example, will need to speak with your attorney, the police department, the victim(s) of the crime, witnesses, you, and others involved in the incident to ensure that they have accurate and detailed information. The full process could take several weeks or longer to complete, depending on how efficient the probation officer is, how easily he or she can get a hold of resources, and how big of a caseload the probation officer has.
What Happens During the PSI Report Process?
The first part of the PSI process relies on information gathering. This responsibility falls on the probation officer, who will speak with relevant sources and gather documentation to complete the report. At some point, you will also need to take part in what’s known as the presentence interview.
The presentence interview will help the probation officer get your version of the story and give insight into your mental condition at the time, your motive, and other important details surrounding the crime for which you are convicted.
After your interview, the probation officer will complete the report, who will give a copy to the prosecutor, your defense attorney, and the court to be reviewed by the sentencing judge.
What is the Presentence Interview Like?
The presentence interview can vary a bit depending on your probation officer and the details surrounding your crime. However, in most cases, this will be a serious interview that you should do your best to take seriously.
Some presentencing interviews happen in the court or jail system while others might be home visits if you aren’t currently being held in a facility. During a home visit, a probation officer might not only interview you, but also your family. In some cases, your attorney may not be allowed to attend the interview with you. However, you can have your attorney help prepare you ahead of time.
How Does the Judge Use a PSI Report?
Although the report isn’t the only piece of information a judge will use to help determine your sentencing, it is a significant part of the process. The judge will have a copy of the PSIR before your sentencing, so they’ll have time to review it and make a fair determination based on it and other evidence and documentation.
You should expect that the judge places a lot of weight on the information contained in the PSI report because it’s so detailed. Your attorney will go over the report with you before your sentencing, so you may have an idea of what sentencing you might face when you get to the courtroom based on the report.
How to Make Sure You’re Getting a Fair Report
A probation officer may add a recommended sentencing to your report based on the information they’ve researched and received throughout the process. A judge may side with the probation officer, but they also might do a little more digging to come up with their own sentencing. Either way, you want to make sure your report and sentence are fair.
The best ways to do this are:
- Being honest and professional in your interview
- Ensuring that your attorney is responsive and cooperative with the probation officer
- Taking steps to make positive changes in your life
The more cooperative you and your team is with the process, the better the outcome for you. And every positive step you take toward improving your life and actions can reward you when it’s time for sentencing.
What to Do During Your Interview
Your presentence interview can provide a probation officer with a lot of important details that could move your sentence into your favor. It’s important to answer every question honestly and with answers that are well thought out and detailed to make sure the most accurate information lands in the report.
Dress nicely and act professionally. Take time preparing for questions before your interview. Some questions might catch you off guard. If this happens, just take a deep breath and think about your answer first. Try also to explain anything positive that you’ve been doing since committing the crime to show that you want to do better.
What Happens After the Interview?
After your presentence interview, the probation officer will add your statements and information to the report. Then, you, your attorney, the court, and the prosecution team will receive the report to review. In most cases, any party will have 14 days to dispute anything that’s in the report with a written objection.
Everything You Need to Know About a Presentence Investigation Report (PSI)
As you can see, a PSI report is a crucial part of the court process as you await your sentencing. The information contained within your report can boost or lower your sentence, making it necessary for you to cooperate with your probation officer and have an attorney who knows how to navigate the process.
Come prepared for your presentence interview and take steps that will positively impact your life to prove that you’re deserving of a lighter sentence.