What are presentence investigations, and how will they impact your criminal case? In the criminal justice system, the presentence interview that takes place prior to your sentencing hearing can play a pivotal part in the judge’s ultimate decision regarding your sentence after a criminal conviction. A presentence interview is conducted by that particular court’s probation department, and typically requires an hour or two to meet with a probation officer assigned to the case. After conducting its interview, the probation department will prepare a report, called a presentence investigation report (often referred to as a PSI), which will then be provided to the criminal defense attorney representing the defendant. The defense attorney is then required to review the PSI with the client and bring to the court’s attention any corrections, additions, or deletions for purposes of the court’s record. At that time, the attorney will advocate on the client’s behalf, and argue that the court should adopt probation’s recommendation or defer from it, whatever is appropriate given the circumstances of that case. The prosecutor will also usually have an opportunity to make an argument in response.
For minor criminal offenses such as moving violations (driving on a suspended license, for example—which is still a criminal misdemeanor but usually will not entail jailtime), a judge will most often not require that a presentence investigation be conducted and proceed to immediate sentencing, which more often than not will just entail fines and costs. A defense attorney can also request at the time of conviction that the judge proceed to immediate sentencing if warranted for a specific reason, or if a sentencing agreement has been previously reached by the defense attorney and the prosecutor.
However, those situations aside, a judge will require a defendant participate in a presentence interview for the majority of criminal offenses before a judge passes sentence. For that reason, it is always advisable that a criminal defendant be kind, courteous, and cooperative during any and all interactions with a court’s probation department, because in many ways, someone facing a criminal sentence is just as at the mercy of the probation department as it is at the mercy of the court itself.
If you have any questions about the presentence interview process or any other criminal matter, call The Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz to speak to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys today!