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Pre-sentence Investigation Report

April 18, 2020

After getting convicted of a crime a federal court will receive a pre-sentence investigation report about the defendant  before a sentence is imposed. Although the judge is who ultimately decides on the appropriate sentence at his or her discretion, the pre-sentence investigation report  plays a key role in the court’s decision-making process. This pre-sentence investigation report is an exhaustive summary of facts and events that apprises the court of details of the defendant and his or her case. The report is compiled by U.S. probation officers.


The aim of the pre-sentence investigation report is to bring together all the necessary and relevant information that assists the court in issuing an appropriate punishment and to select the right type of correctional facility. This report contains information obtained from the defendant directly in addition to the U.S. Probation Officer’s own findings. For instance, the defendant is interviewed to get details about his or her personal history and background, childhood, past and current family situation, relationship to family members, physical, mental and emotional health, and education level, as well as any prior arrests, juvenile offenses, pending charges, gang affiliation, and other relevant details. All of these details are then positioned in context with the specific facts, allegations, and circumstances in the defendant’s current case.


A pre-sentence investigation report may be commenced even before the establishment of guilt by initiating the interview process. That said, it is only after a defendant’s guilty plea or conviction that the report is furnished to the court. The final version of the report is compiled when the defendant has completed a series of steps including a probation department interview, a short written form, a follow up interview, and finally a more in depth written form.


At the end of the report, the probation officer presents program and condition options to the sentencing judge. In the report, he or she will make recommendations regarding the applicable sentencing options which can include custody and incarceration, supervised release, probation, and imposed fines. In addition, for persons convicted of a drug offense, the report addresses the revocation of access to certain federal benefits, such as social welfare programs.


The influence of the pre-sentencing investigation report cannot be overstated. It is definitely crucial that the defendant attends every single appointment requested by the probation officer because missing appointments will reflect negatively upon his or her conduct. Indeed, these meetings with the probation officer present the earliest opportunities for the defendant to demonstrate a good faith effort to obey court orders ahead of sentencing.


Given the report’s critical importance, a defendant should never walk in unprepared to a meeting with the probation officer. Probation officers are highly trained to probe defendants with tough questions. How you answer those questions can make a significant difference in the probation officer’s recommendations for punishment. In light of this, our lawyers strongly forewarn all defendants to consult experienced criminal defense counsel to carefully plan and prepare for a client’s encounter with U.S. probation officers. It is vital to put forth the details to be included in the report in a favorable light, so that the judge will be relying on accurate information when determining the sentence.


If you have a pre-sentence investigation coming up, call us right away to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you.



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