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What is a Pre-Sentence Investigation and How Can It Affect My Criminal Case?

Considered to be one of the most critical components of the state or federal criminal process, a pre-sentence investigation (“PSI”) and PSI report can have significant ramifications for an individual’s criminal case, both at the sentencing phase and at several phases of the proceedings thereafter. After a defendant is convicted of a criminal charge, a separate proceeding is held, during which the court determines and issues a sentence for the conviction. Such an investigation and report are typically used to assist the court in determining a fair and appropriate sentence, by taking into account a multiplicity of factors revealed in the PSI report.

In the brief interval of several weeks between the conviction and the sentencing hearing, a probation officer makes a comprehensive inquiry into such things as the circumstances of the crime; the offender’s prior criminal history and characteristics; the offender’s family history; and his/her ties to the community. This investigation is usually accomplished through interviews of the defendant, the victim; the arresting officer; and the defendant’s family members, associates and employer. The probation officer may, in some circumstances, even conduct a home visit to meet with the defendant and his/her family at their residence. The probation officer also reviews such documents as plea agreements, court docket information, trial transcripts, criminal history records, investigative reports of all pertinent law enforcement agencies, substance abuse treatment records, educational records, employment records, and financial records.

The pre-sentence investigation report is vitally important, as it is designed to give the court important background information about the defendant, in order to provide context for his case so that a fair and appropriate sentence may be ordered by the court. The report is also a valuable resource to the Bureau of Prisons and other correctional agencies to determine the most suitable institution for the defendant to serve his/her sentence; to select appropriate correctional programs; and to make plans for his/her release upon completion of the sentence. The courts rely significantly on the guidance of PSI reports, especially in felony and more serious misdemeanor cases as an accurate and reliable sentencing tool.

Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Tanner Law Offices, LLC, to help you better understand the criminal process and to best protect and defend your rights.

If you have any questions regarding the pre-sentencing investigation process or the criminal process, in general, call our Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys at (717) 731-8114 today for a consultation.