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What is a Presentence Investigation?

Posted in Criminal Defense,Sentencing on January 14, 2019

After the police arrest an individual, there may be a period of time between conviction and sentencing. Depending on the severity of the charges and unique case factors, this window could be a few days or several months. During this time, a probation officer will likely interview the subject of the criminal case and prepare a presentencing report based on his or her findings. When a judge requires a presentence investigation, the gap between conviction and sentencing is typically several weeks.

The probation officer in charge of the presentence investigation will interview the defendant and his or her close friends, relatives, and coworkers. They generally ask about elements of the defendant’s criminal charges, the defendant’s relationships with others and the local community, and any past criminal issues that have affected those interviewed. The probation officer will likely also interview the defendant’s victims if any. If the criminal offense in question involved the victimization of any other individuals, the probation officer will prepare victim impact statements based on their interviews with the victims.

Elements of a Presentence Interview

An individual awaiting sentencing should prepare for a presentence interview from a probation officer. The individual’s Riverside criminal defense lawyer can help prepare for this interview and will also supply the probation officer with any and all information that could mitigate the judge’s ruling against the defendant For example, if the defendant faces drug-related charges and enrolled in a 12-step program or other rehab programs, the defense attorney may offer this to the probation officer in the hope that the judge will see it as proof of rehabilitation.

The probation officer will ask the defendant for his or her side of the story. The defendant should honestly recount his or her perspective of the events in question and answer all the probation officer’s other questions. The officer will likely ask about the defendant’s past criminal history, substance abuse and alcoholism, financial status, health issues, employment status, and the defendant’s motives or reasons for committing the criminal act in question.

It is important to remember that the probation officer conducting the presentence investigation may rely on hearsay or unsubstantiated claims made by those interviewed during the investigation. Some of the evidence included in the presentence report may or may not have come up during the trial, and other evidence may appear that would have been inadmissible in a trial. A defendant may or may not have the option to have an attorney present for a presentence interview, so it is vital for all defendants expecting such interviews to prepare accordingly.

Preparing for Your Presentence Interview

Remember to be very careful of word choice during an interview with a probation officer. Misinterpretations could reflect poorly upon you when the probation officer completes his or her report. Most judges rely on presentence reports when issuing their sentences and simply do not have the time to personally investigate every case. It is important to ensure you make the best impression possible during your presentence interview.

A defense attorney can be a great asset and help in several ways before a presentence interview. The attorney may offer alternative punishments or diversionary opportunities to the probation officer to convey to the judge. The defense attorney can also help prepare the defendant for his or her interview and improve the defendant’s personal profile by enrolling him or her in mental health counseling or substance abuse rehab. A defense attorney may also help prepare a written statement explaining why the defendant should receive lighter sentencing.

It is important to act quickly after a conviction if you are awaiting sentencing; you may have several weeks before the judge issues a ruling in your case, but the probation officer may not offer you much time to prepare before your interview. A defense attorney is a great resource to start immediately preparing for a presentence investigation after a criminal conviction.