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Encyclopedia > Presentence Investigation
Criminal procedure
Investigating and charging crimes
Criminal investigation
Arrest warrant  · Search warrant
Probable cause  · Knock and announce
Exigent circumstance
Search and seizure  · Arrest
Right to silence  · Miranda warning (U.S.)
Grand jury
Criminal prosecution
Statute of limitations  · Nolle prosequi
Bill of attainder  · Ex post facto law
Criminal jurisdiction  · Extradition
Habeas corpus  · Bail
Inquisitorial system  · Adversarial system
Charges and pleas
Arraignment  · Indictment
Plea  · Peremptory plea
Nolo contendere (U.S.)  · Plea bargain
Presentence Investigation
Related areas of law
Criminal defenses
Criminal law  · Evidence
Civil procedure
Portals: Law  · Criminal justice

A presentence investigation report (PSI) is a legal term referring to the investigation into the history of person convicted of a crime before sentencing to determine if there are extenuating circumstances which should ameliorate the sentence or a history of criminal behavior to increase the harshness of the sentence. Image File history File links Scale_of_justice. ... Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated the criminal law. ... An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a public officer which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual. ... A search warrant is a written warrant issued by a judge or magistrate which authorizes the police to conduct a search of a person or location for evidence of a criminal offense. ... In United States criminal law, probable cause refers to the standard by which a police officer may make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search or obtain a warrant. ... Knock-and-announce, in United States law of criminal procedure, is an ancient common-law principle which requires law enforcement officers to announce their presence and provide residents with an opportunity to open the door to the residence when conducting a search. ... An exigent circumstance, in the American law of criminal procedure, allows law enforcement to enter a structure without a warrant, or if a they have a knock and announce warrant, without knocking and waiting for refusal under certain circumstances. ... Search and seizure is a legal procedure used in many common law whereby police or other authorities and their agents, who suspect that a crime has been committed, do a search of a persons property and confiscate any relevant evidence to the crime. ... The Chicago Police Department arrests a man An arrest is the action of the police, or person acting under the law, to take a person into custody so that they may be forthcoming to answer for the commission of a crime. ... The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. ... The Miranda warning is a police warning that is given to criminal suspects in police custody in the United States before they are asked questions relating to the commission of crimes. ... Motto: (Out Of Many, One) (traditional) In God We Trust (1956 to date) Anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington D.C. Largest city New York City None at federal level (English de facto) Government Federal constitutional republic  - President George Walker Bush (R)  - Vice President Dick Cheney (R) Independence from... A grand jury is a type of jury, in the common law legal system, which determines if there is enough evidence for a trial. ... Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated the criminal law. ... A statute of limitations is a statute in a common law legal system that sets forth the maximum period of time, after certain events, that legal proceedings based on those events may be initiated. ... Nolle prosequi is a Latin legal phrase meaning unwilling to pursue. ... A bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) is an act of legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime, and punishing them, without benefit of a trial. ... An ex post facto law (from the Latin for from something done afterward) or retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law. ... Criminal jurisdiction is a term used in the law of criminal procedure to describe the power of a court to hear a case brought by the state accusing a criminal defendant of a violation of the law of the geographic area in which the court is located. ... Extradition is the official process by which one nation or state requests and obtains from another nation or state the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal. ... In common law countries, habeas corpus (/heɪbiÉ™s kɔɹpÉ™s/), Latin for you [should] have the body, is the name of a legal action or writ by means of which detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. ... The word bail as a legal term means: Security, usually a sum of money, exchanged for the release of an arrested person as a guarantee of that persons appearance for trial. ... An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in determining the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is solely that of an impartial referee between parties. ... The adversarial system (or adversary system) of law is the system of law, generally adopted in common law countries, that relies on the skill of the different advocates representing their partys positions and not on some neutral party, usually the judge, trying to ascertain the truth of the case. ... Arraignment is a common law term for the formal reading of a criminal complaint, in the presence of the defendant, to inform him of the charges against him. ... In the common law legal system, an indictment (IPA: ) is a formal charge of having committed a most serious criminal offense. ... In legal terminology, a plea is simply an answer to a claim made by someone in a civil or criminal case under common law using the adversary system. ... In the common law legal system, the peremptory pleas (pleas in bar), are pleas that set out special reasons for which a trial cannot go ahead. ... In criminal trials in some common law jurisdictions, a plea of nolo contendere means that the defendant neither admits nor disputes the charge, and is an alternative to pleading guilty or not guilty. ... A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case in which a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to settle the case against the defendant. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the process that courts will follow when hearing cases of a civil nature (a civil action, as opposed to a criminal action). ... This is a list of legal terms, often from Latin: A mensa et thoro A mensa et thoro, from bed and board. ...

The reports trace their origins to the efforts of prison reformer John Augustus who in the 1840s began a campaign to allow discretion in sentencing to help those who were deemed undeserving of harsh sentences and could be reformed. The historical roots of probation lie in the procedures for reprieves and pardons of early English courts. ...

The practice became firmly entrenched in the 1920s under a theory that crime was a pathology that could be diagnosed and treated like a disease. [1]

The reports had normally been prepared by the government (usually by the probation officer) but in the 1970s and 1980s, defense attorneys began also preparing the reports. This in turn has led to new laws taking away judge discretion and imposing mandatory sentences based on formulas of previous criminal behavior. Probation officers function as agents or officers of the courts in the United States especially, but also in other countries. ...

The basic information now includes:[2]

  • identification data
  • family history
  • marital history
  • education history
  • employment history
  • economic data
  • military record
  • health history
  • substance abuse/use and any mental health history
  • arrest record, including any prior or pending cases (non-public record)
  • additional information deemed relevant by the probation officer or the defendant

The report is immediately to help the court determine an appropriate sentence and also serves other purposes. Since the advent of the sentencing guidelines, the importance of the presentence report has increased because the document is now designed to frame factual and legal issues for sentencing. Thereafter, if a defendant is incarcerated, the Bureau of Prisons or State Department of Corrections will use information in the report to designate the institution where the offender will serve the sentence and determine the offender's eligibility or need for specific correctional programs. Also, depending on the jurisdiction, the presentence report can be used to calculate the release date. The probation officer assigned responsibility for the offender's case during probation and supervised release will use the report to make an initial assessment of case needs and risks. Additionally, the report may be used as a source of information for future research.

Probation officers investigate by interviewing and reviewing documents. Unless the defendant declines, the defendant is questioned in every case. Additionally, the officer should interview the defense counsel, the prosecutor, law enforcement agents who investigated the conduct that led to the defendant's conviction, victims, the defendant's family, present or previous employers, school officials, doctors, counselors, and others. The diverse interview settings that probation officers encounter require them to be proficient in a variety of questioning techniques.

During any investigation a probation officer may review numerous documents including: court dockets, plea agreements, investigative reports from numerous agencies, previous probation or parole records, pretrial services records, medical records, counseling and substance abuse treatment records, scholastic records, employment records, financial records, and others. The probation officer must scrutinize each document received and determine the likely accuracy of the record.

Whether interviewing or reviewing documents, the probation officer must weigh the evidence based on the best available information. The final report must contain only accurate information. The goal is to produce a report that the court may rely upon at sentencing. Though it is inevitable that there will be data that the probation officer is unable to verify, that information should be clearly identified. The probation officer must distinguish between facts and the inferences, opinions, or conclusions based upon those facts.

When a defendant is referred for a presentence investigation, the officer must immediately begin to gather the facts. Though the procedure varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the officer usually conducts several aspects of the investigation concurrently to ensure that the presentence report is submitted to the court on time. Since officers routinely conduct multiple presentence investigation simultaneously, meeting the deadlines can be difficult.

Local rules, adopted by the judges of each jurisdiction, supplement the federal rules and set a specific schedule for the disclosure of the initial draft of the presentence report to the defendant and both counsel, for the filing of objections to the report by counsel, and for the submission of the final report to the court, the defendant, and counsel. The report must be disclosed to the court, the defendant, defendant's counsel, and the attorney for the government at least before the sentencing.

The probation officer must manage the investigation process within the time line established by those rules. In addition to gathering information, the officer must plan to verify that information, interpret and evaluate the data, determine the appropriate sentencing guidelines and statutes to the specific facts of the case, and present the results of the investigation in an organized and objective report. The probation officer must set deadlines for the submission of information by the defendant and others and monitor compliance with the deadlines.

Ideally, the offender is available for the interview early in the investigation. The defendant interview is the pivotal point around which the presentence investigation turns. Often, the format is a structured interview during which a standard worksheet is completed. The worksheet follows the format of the presentence report and provides space for recording data about the offense and the offender's characteristics and history. Each item on the form is reviewed with the defendant. Even though some of the data solicited from the offender during this interview may not appear in the final report, it is impossible at this stage to determine what information will be included. No question is asked without a purpose. The defendant's answers will determine follow up questions, items for further investigation or corroboration, and, ultimately, whether the data should be included in the report.

The presentence investigation is often the first inquiry into the offender's past, and the initial interview provides the framework for the report's description of the offender's history and circumstances. The probation officer inquires about the defendant's family and developmental history, familial and marital relationships, education, employment history, physical and mental health, alcohol or controlled substance abuse, and finances. The emphasis throughout the questioning is on identifying information that is relevant for understanding the defendant's offense conduct and present situation. During the interview, the probation officer will ask the offender to sign authorizations to release confidential information. At the conclusion of the initial interview, the offender may be asked to provide numerous documents to the probation officer substantiating the offender's complete life history. Additionally, the offender may be asked to submit an autobiography fleshing out the skeletal information already gathered about the social history.

Before interviewing the defendant about the offense, the probation officer must review official descriptions of the offense conduct and the applicable guidelines. As a result, it is often necessary to postpone a discussion of the offense until a second interview. The offender is also asked to submit a written statement about the offense conduct.

The second interview may be schedule either in the probation office or in the offender's home. By visiting the home, the probation officer may verify information by talking to other family members and may obtain clues about the offender's standard of living, community ties, and use of alcohol or controlled substances. A second interview is also an opportunity to clarify any vague, contradictory, or confusing information.

The probation officer's investigation of the offense usually begins with an examination of the complaint, information, or indictment charging the defendant and the docket describing the judicial history of the case. These documents may be found in the district court clerk's file. The officer will use them to develop a brief chronological history of the prosecution of the case and identify the specific charges that resulted in the conviction. The review of the clerk's file may also reveal the identities of co-defendants or related cases, the status of which must be investigated and reported in the presentence report. At the same time, the probation officer may also request information about the offender's history, circumstances, and release status from the pretrial services officer or from a separate pretrial services agency.

Another step that must occur early in the investigation is contact prosecutor assigned to the case. The prosecutor will be asked to provide information about the conduct that resulted in the defendant's conviction, victim's losses, the defendant's history, and any other data relevant to the sentencing decision. During the investigation, the defense counsel will also be asked to discuss the same topics.

Additionally, the probation officer must an inquiry into the offender's criminal history. This is usually accomplished by using databases maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI,) the National Crime Information Center (NCIC,) or state law enforcement agencies. Though the guideline criminal history category is based only upon sentences imposed for juvenile adjudications and criminal convictions meeting specific criteria, the probation officer reports all known incidents in which the defendant has been involved in criminal behavior to partially fulfill the statutory mandate to provide information to the court regarding the history and characteristics of the defendant. The early examination of computerized criminal history records enables the officer to identify which law enforcement, court, and correctional records must be reviewed. In addition, the initial interview of the defendant should include questioning about the offender's residential history so that the officer can check local police and court records in every jurisdiction where the defendant has lived. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a federal criminal investigative, intelligence agency, and the primary investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). ... The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a Federal police force which is the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). ... The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is the United States central database for tracking crime-related information. ... The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is the United Statess central database for tracking crime-related information, including wanted persons, missing persons, certain firearms, stolen property, and criminal histories. ...

After the interview of the offender, contact with the prosecutor, and the criminal history inquiry, the probation officer must identify any information gaps, must identify potential sources for the missing information, and must plan on how to eliminate the gaps. It may be necessary for the investigating officer to request another probation officer in another jurisdiction to conduct a collateral investigation about a specific aspect of the case. Supplemental interviews may be scheduled with case agents, victims, family members, employers, counselors, or others. Additionally, the probation officer may request physical and mental health, educational, employment or financial records from a variety of sources to corroborate information provided by the offender. The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ...

Gradually, the emphasis shifts from gathering information to analyzing data. The probation officer must take the tentative findings of fact regarding the offense conduct and criminal history and must make tentative applications of the sentencing guidelines. The applicable sentencing options that the probation officer must recite in the presentence report. Additionally, the probation officer must study the case to identify potential grounds for departure from the guidelines and then must analyze any potential departure to determine if it is valid. During the investigation, the probation officer may consult a probation officer specialist who is a subject matter expert about guidelines, financial investigation, mental health, substance abuse, or some other aspect of the case. The probation officer may also consult a supervisor or, in a team environment, other members of the officer's team.

Finally, the probation officer must write a draft of the report for disclosure to the defendant and the attorneys. When objections to report are received, the probation officer must manage the resolution of disputes. The officer must be impartial and open to opposing perspective and must consider all relevant and reliable information before making an independent judgment about the tentative findings of fact and guideline applications that will be recommended to the court. The probation officer must be prepared to report unresolved disputes to the court in a detached, dispassionate manner focusing on the factual or legal disagreement among the parties.

After revising the report in response to objections, the probation officer develops a sentencing recommendation based on the facts and sentencing options identified in the report. The written justification for the recommendation is the probation officer's evaluation and analysis of the offense, the offender, and the sentencing options. The justification provides the officer's rationale for the specific sentencing recommendations. It should address the statutory factors to be considered in imposing a sentence and should assist the court in the preparation of the judge's statement of reasons for imposing a sentence.

The officer then discloses the final report and sentencing recommendation to court. Also, the officer discloses the report (excluding the recommendation) to the defendant, and both attorneys, but the job is not finished. The probation officer must be prepared to discuss the case with the sentencing judge in chambers or in court, to answer questions about the report that arise during the sentencing hearing, and, ultimately, to testify under oath in open court as to the basis for the factual findings and guideline applications recommended in the report.

In the Federal System, after the offender's sentencing by the Court, the probation officer must ensure that copies of the pre-sentence report and other requested documents are forwarded to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Sentencing Commission. If possible, the probation officer must also interview the offender after sentencing and instruct the defendant about the conditions of supervision that the court imposed. A written copy of the conditions of supervision must be provided to each offender.


  1. ^ The History of the Presentence Investigation Report - Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice - cjcj.org - Retrieved February 2, 2007
  2. ^ Presentence Investigation - Manual - Michigan Courts



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