Your P.S.I. and your P.S.R. are extremely important! Many people, including myself when I faced federal incarceration, don’t take this process seriously. As a result, I have posted an article about this very topic in the hopes of reaching those people who are facing federal incarceration and are making the mistake that I made in thinking that it’s no big deal or that it’s just another bureaucratic process that you must go through to finish this process. While it is another bureaucratic process, you should know about it because going about it the wrong way or minimizing the effects mentally can be devastating for you in the future.
Every individual convicted of a felony will be affected by the Presentence Investigation Report or P.S.I. Early on, become familiar with the procedure. To help, we will discuss the following topics in this post:
- The fact that the P.S.I. is the result of a procedure.
- You can take individual actions to impact the P.S.I.’s result.
- The P.S.I.’s final draft and its consequences
- The P.S.I. is the result of the following steps:
The judge will direct federal probation to prepare a Presentence Investigation Report once a defendant has been convicted of a felony in federal court.
The individual’s life history who was convicted of a crime will be documented in the P.S.I.
There is an apparent presumption of innocence in our country’s legal system until the time of conviction. The presumption of innocence vanishes when a person pleads guilty, or a jury or judge finds someone guilty. From that point forward, the individual becomes a convicted felon, and people within the system view them through a new lens.
How soon do you think it will be?
A federal probation officer will contact the offender within a short length of time following sentencing. This meeting will most likely happen within 30 days of the conviction date or change of plea date. The initial contact with a probation officer might happen as soon as a week after the conviction, so be ready.
What is the starting point for the investigation?
The court may or may not allow the defendant to stay free after the conviction if they were free during the “pretrial procedure.” A federal probation officer will visit the detention center, jail, or prison if the offender is detained. If the offender is in the community, the federal probation officer will almost certainly pay him a visit at his home. Alternatively, the federal probation officer might start the inquiry at the federal probation office or the defense attorney’s office.
For my case, I had a meeting set with United States Probation and attended it with my lawyer.
We have helped people who had a lawyer present during the interview with U.S. Probation and without a lawyer there. Your specific financial resources may influence whether or not defense counsel is present during the Presentence Investigation Report.
At every level of the criminal justice process, seek professional legal guidance. Simultaneously, we want our clients to have as much knowledge as possible about the whole procedure that follows conviction.
We’ve dealt with far too many defendants who tell us about how unprepared they were for the Presentence Investigation. As a result, their punishments are far harsher than they may have been otherwise.
There are several reasons why someone may be unprepared for the Presentence Investigation Report. The following are some of the most prevalent reasons:
- The individual remained in denial because of their fears about the criminal justice system. Intense and contradictory emotions might cloud an individual’s capacity to reason logically. In many circumstances, stress may render a person immobile. Defendants who indulge in dreams about acquitting themselves during a trial do not consider the ramifications of a conviction until it is too late.
- Because the Presentence Investigation occurs so soon following a conviction, the defendant did not have time to educate himself about the process’s ramifications.
- The defense counsel, who may have been an excellent litigator or trial strategist, underestimated the impact of the P.S.I. document on the imprisonment process.
Having talked to many people who are at a camp or have “Pen Points” or in other words are classified as “High” security and have not properly taken the time to prepare for the P.S.I. documentation process, we can state unequivocally that it leads people to have the following outcomes:
- Not being eligible for programs that may have resulted in their early release.
- Spending more time in higher-security prisons than was necessary.
- Serving sentences that were tougher than they should have been.
- Having limited access to the telephone, email, and visitation makes prison life more difficult.
- Being misclassified resulted in unnecessary hassles and complications while serving their term.
Unfortunately, a criminal conviction entails more than just the imposition of a sentence.
You make just shrug and take your lawyer’s advice, not knowing any better. Any facts that are not disputed in the P.S.I. process will work against you in the future, though. This result is a much harsher classification by the B.O.P. than one would typically get.
As a result of this categorization, you could end up spending time in a much higher security level than the one you should be in. You could end up serving time at a pen or a medium when you qualify for a minimum-security camp. 9 times out of 10, this is going to be bad.
Attempting to negotiate, explain or remediate your situation after sentencing to a B.O.P. employee is just about impossible.
They are not going to believe you. Even if they do, they are bureaucrats that follow policies that, even if they make no sense to anyone else in the world, make sense to them. Not only that, but their pension depends on the implementation. Do you think they will risk that for you?
Nobody in the razor-wire bureaucracy will care or believe you. No matter who you are, how much money you have, or who you know.
You will serve more time than was necessary and in harsher circumstances than was required, all because you failed to take steps to assure the P.S.I.’s correctness.
Having an impact on the findings of the Presentence Investigation Report
Every decision you make in the future will have long-term consequences! Consider how you can affect the result of the P.S.I. You cannot undo the past, but you can make the correct decisions to improve your current situation by thinking about the impacts your decisions today will have on your future, at your sentencing, and the B.O.P.’s evaluation of you.
Learn more about the visa vi federal court process and the steps that are taken before conviction and sentencing.
If you lack the basic knowledge, there WILL be ramifications when going for your P.S.I. As a result, when the judge reads the P.S.R., you will have things in it that could’ve not been there. Alternatively, you may also have missing facts that you didn’t know about, having not taken the process seriously. The P.S.R. can have devastating consequences. Failing to take control of your pre-conviction strategy will lead to massive issues in the end.
Strategic preparation, which should include counsel’s guidance, is required to influence better results throughout the post-conviction process. If a person intends to appeal a conviction, their attorney may prevent them from speaking about the crime during the presentence inquiry.
After all, the probation officer preparing the report is a court representative, and the P.S.I. report that follows is a legal document. As a result, qualified counsel must advise clients on what they should say and refrain from talking about at the interview.
Defendants have a chance to influence the findings of the present investigation report. At the very least, they should ensure that the report is accurate so that they don’t suffer the same consequence as many of the currently incarcerated people.
However, taking proactive measures that may positively impact the presentence investigation and the post-conviction process is equally important.
- A defendant should compose a personal narrative before meeting with the probation officer that would explain, but not justify, their current circumstances.
- The defendant might take measures to establish any mitigating qualities that could help a probation officer or court get a favorable impression of his overall character.
- The defendant might seek out community members who could provide character references and verify the defendant’s contributions to the community.
- The defendant might compile a list of references to back up any extenuating circumstances that led to the conviction or demonstrate that the defendant is much more than his criminal record suggests.
- The defendant might keep track of their good deeds, included in the final P.S.I. report.
- The defendant might write a statement expressing regret and demonstrating their resolve to live as a law-abiding, productive citizen.
- The defendant can prepare his family and friends for the possibility that a federal probation officer will inquire about the defendant’s character unexpectedly and uncomfortably.
- The defendant can research alternative punishments and formulate a strategy or case to persuade the probation officer that it is feasible.
- For example, the defendant’s profile might be improved by participating in some form of activity that indicates his suitability for less severe punishment. If your sentence is for fraud, perhaps you volunteer at a fraud prevention organization to be convicted of drug trafficking. You can attend N.A. meetings or volunteer at a local drug rehab to see the damage your actions have caused your community and society as a whole.
- The defendant may draft an “alternative presentence investigation report,” which the defense counsel may submit to the court for review.
Begin your preparations by acknowledging that we must live in the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Although a defendant may be new to the criminal justice system, the federal probation officer in charge of the presentence inquiry is not.
Every day, federal probation officials deal with people who have been convicted of felonies. Because of these encounters, many probation officials are skeptical of whatever a defendant says. If a defendant can embrace this truth, they will take proper action. This is why we will always advise you to document everything.
Every individual will have their own set of criteria. Competent counsel may assist the defendant in navigating the presentence investigation. Defendants who are unfortunate enough to have lawyers who are uninterested in their case should be proactive.
Before they surrender to prison, they should understand everything they can about the system. Defendants aware of what is to come will be better equipped to envision the greatest potential conclusion in their existing circumstances. An individual should create a strategy that will provide the desired outcome once they have defined the greatest potential outcome.
Report on the Presentence Investigation (P.S.I.)
Presentence Investigation Reports are written in the same format by all federal probation officers.
Information is gathered from some sources by federal probation officials. They look at the charging document, the prosecutor’s notes, and court transcripts and listen to the prosecutor’s version of events. They may also consider statements made by the defense counsel and the defendant to some extent.
They will consider information provided by crime victims or information received from people who have had personal contact with the defendant. The probation officer will almost certainly know the defendant’s criminal history before meeting him.
Probation officers will attempt to verify all of the information contained in the report. As a result, savvy defendants will avoid stating anything perceived as deceptive or lies. Doing so could result in extra criminal charges or sentencing increases for obstruction of justice. The report will finish by recommending a suitable punishment for the judge to consider.
Interview with the presenter:
Before the initial interview, defendants should anticipate the probation officer to become acquainted with their case. Before the initial encounter, the probation officer interacted with the prosecuting attorney, reviewed the criminal history, and met with victims. The probation officer will ask a series of questions. Consider both positive and negative descriptions that might impact the report. You should think about how he would respond to the following questions before meeting with the probation officer:
- Who are the most influential people in your life?
- Describe your family in a few words.
- What part of the country did you grow up in?
- How would you characterize that area?
- How long have you been at that address?
- Have you ever lived anywhere else?
- Tell me about every city you’ve ever lived in.
- Give an overview of your present living condition.
- What were the circumstances of your previous living situation?
The probation officer attempts to obtain information about early life impacts by asking such questions. Consider how your replies could cause you to deviate from the established sentencing guideline ranges.
- Tell me about your parents and siblings, if you have any.
- Where do your relatives live?
- If you were to characterize your parents in one word, what would it be?
- What kind of job do your parents have?
- Did your family have a history of domestic strife while growing up?
- Can you tell me about your relationship with your parents?
- Do your parents have any knowledge of your current situation?
- How would you say that your parents feel about your current situation?
- Will you be able to meet with your parents for an interview?
- Do you have a close relationship with your siblings?
- Would you be available for an interview with your siblings?
- What is your spouse’s name?
- What is your spouse’s age?
- How is your relationship doing right now?
- What are your children’s names?
- What are your children’s ages?
- Do you work with any social service organizations?
Learn how your replies to questions might cause long-term problems. Information about the defendant’s familial ties or commitments, for example, may persuade the probation officer to believe that the defendant could afford to pay a large fine.
When assessing how much money to confiscate from the defendant’s commissary account each month, the Bureau of Prisons will undoubtedly consider such issues. In the same way, family issues might justify requesting a reduction in sentence recommendations.
We advise our clients to consider the implications of each response since they will have long-term consequences.
Condition of the body:
- Please tell me whether you have any tattoos or scars.
- What do you think those tattoos mean to you?
- Can you tell me about any severe medical issues you’ve had in the past?
- When did you get your diagnosis?
- What was the name of the attending doctor?
- Do you have any current medical conditions?
- How do you want to proceed with your treatment?
- Do you use any medications?
- Describe any health issues you’re dealing with.
- How would you characterize your overall physical state?
- Describe any medical issues that may affect your ability to work.
Defendants should keep in mind that B.O.P. staff workers use the P.S.I. as a reference for classifying individuals.
If a person can document health issues in the P.S.I., he will increase his chances of obtaining proper treatment while in detention. However, don’t count on it. The B.O.P. is not known for its great medical care. Furthermore, information recorded in this area may impact the prison where an individual serves his sentence, the housing unit to which he is allocated, and the work assignment he obtains while incarcerated.
Every response has the potential to have long-term consequences.
Not only that, but if you plan on applying for compassionate release at your halfway mark of 50% sentence completion, then you will want all issues, including past cigarette smoking, obesity, asthma, or any other negative health issues documented at that time.
Emotional and Mental Health:
- Describe the characteristics of your personality (positive and negative)
- Tell me about any mental or emotional issues you’ve had in the past.
- Do you think your family has a history of mental or emotional problems?
- Have you ever sought help for a mental or emotional issue?
- What was the diagnosis you received as a result of the treatment?
- Have you taken any antidepressant medication?
- Can you tell me whether you’ve attempted suicide before?
- How would you rate your mental or emotional well-being?
We encourage our clients to react to such queries with utmost caution.
Prison officials will rely on the P.S.I. document for the remainder of the term.
Even though a defendant’s emotions may be at an all-time low following a conviction, it’s critical that the defendant not furnish the probation officer with material that might indicate emotional instability.
Such paperwork might be used by Bureau of Prison officials and future probation officers to force the offender to participate in so-called “therapy programs” that would exacerbate his adjustment.
These are not therapy programs like you are used to. You will be in a room with many people who have real issues and may even be civilly committed. Not only that but being put on suicide watch while in custody is no fun. I have seen people exacerbate and overstate issues they were having and, as a result, got much more than they bargained for.
Abuse of Substances:
- Tell me whether you’ve ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol.
- When did you first start using drugs?
- Would you say you’ve abused drugs regularly?
- How much did your drug problem set you back financially?
- What kind of drugs have you taken in the past?
- When was the last time you used an illegal substance?
- Can you tell me about any previous medical treatment you’ve had?
- Does your family have a history of substance abuse?
We urge our clients to consider the consequences of their responses to the questions we just listed.
Only one program exists in the federal system that can reduce sentence sentences. The answers to the questions above significantly impact whether defendants are eligible for a 12-month delay in their release date.
Don’t be startled if the federal probation officer wants a urine sample from someone not in detention during the presentence investigation.
Education, vocational training, and special abilities:
- Where did you go to school?
- What is your educational background?
- Have you had any professional training?
- Do you have any current licenses?
- What languages are you fluent in?
- What is your current job situation?
- Have you been in this role for a long time?
- How much money do you make?
- Is your present legal condition known to your employer?
- How would your boss react if I asked them about you?
- Will you be able to resume your previous job?
- If you’re a business owner, how long do you think your company will last if you’re incarcerated?
- Have you ever served in the military?
We want our clients to understand how the criminal justice system’s personnel will read their replies to these inquiries. According to the literature on criminal justice, there is a link between work, education, and recidivism. The more education, training, and work experience a person has, the less likely they are to participate in criminal activities in the future.
As a result, defendants who demonstrate a dedication to education improve their chances of a good outcome. At the same time, claims regarding employment can impact later on in the process when prison officials decide whether a halfway house placement is necessary. The correct balance should be struck in responses.
Furthermore, all people who anticipate serving time should know that getting the maximum “good time” credits is contingent on an individual’s capacity to demonstrate that he has achieved either a high school diploma or a G.E.D.
If he hasn’t, officials will force him to enroll in programs that will lead to a high school equivalency diploma. Some individuals demonstrated a university diploma but not a high school diploma.
As a result, B.O.P. officials demanded that the prisoner take G.E.D. Lessons. We were successful in supporting our client in overturning that judgment. Those who can prove they have a high school certificate in the P.S.I. will escape certain administrative headaches in prison.
- Have you included your assets, liabilities, net worth, monthly costs, and cash flow in your financial statement?
- What is the best way to verify the financial facts you provide?
- Do you have the financial means to pay a fine or restitution?
- How would you rate your assets concerning your sources of income?
- How would you define the relationship between your income and your expenses?
- Have you ever attempted to hide an asset?
- Have you attempted to transfer assets out of your name recently?
People should be aware of the ramifications of whatever response they provide.
Because many authorities will analyze them skeptically, all replies should be consistent. When people examine all of the repercussions of their responses to financial inquiries during the presentence inquiry, they are well prepared.
U.S. Probation may request the following information from other people you know:
- How would you characterize the accused?
- How is your relationship with the defendant going?
- How has the defendant’s crime affected your relationship with the defendant?
- What impact has the defendant’s crime had on your family?
- Do you have any information about the defendant’s substance abuse?
- Do you have any information about the defendant’s mental health?
- How would you characterize the defendant’s violent tendencies?
- Do you have any information regarding the defendant’s financial situation?
- How has the defendant’s crime affected the family’s financial situation?
- How will the defendant’s incarceration affect their family?
- What information about the defendant would you wish the court to have?
Defendants should expect the probation officer to ask the Assistant U.S. Attorney the following questions:
- Has the defendant been cooperative with the authorities?
- Has the defendant made any attempts to hinder the investigation?
- Should we take into account any aggravating or mitigating factors?
- Is there anything in the plea deal that the defense contests?
- Are you aware of any other jurisdictions looking into the defendant?
- In this scenario, who is the victim?
- How can I get in touch with the victim?
- How much money has been lost in this case?
- Even if there was no loss, what loss exposure was feasible in this case?
- Was there any money recovered from the loss?
- How much money did the defendant make off of this crime?
- How much money did the defendant hope to make from this crime?
- Do you have any of the defendant’s personal or corporate financial statements?
- How much of a role did you think the defendant played in the crime?
- How long has the defendant been a part of this crime?
- How and when did the government start its investigation of the defendant?
- How did the defendant respond at the time of the arrest?
- How has the defendant adjusted during pretrial supervision?
- Has the defendant made efforts to repay the victims or make restitution?
- Has the defendant engaged in any programs that the court would want to know about?
- What do we know about the defendant’s criminal history?
- What do we know about the defendant’s history of bail jumping?
- Does any documentation exist about the defendant’s involvement in domestic violence?
- Does any documentation exist to suggest sexual misconduct?
- What allegations exist about the defendant’s use of weapons?
- Does the defendant have any ties to gangs or organized crime?
- Do we know of any threats the defendant has made against government officials?
After the Probation Officer has completed his investigation, he will write a report that adheres to a template. Some points of the template are as follows:
Part A: The Offense: This section provides information necessary to understand the offense, assess its impact on any victim, and calculate the offense level the judge may use when imposing a sentence. It also offers information about elements of the offense that readers may want to consider.
- Charges: A brief, clinical overview of the charges.
This is objective information, a snapshot of the past that the defendant cannot influence.
- Codefendants: Descriptions of anyone else charged in the same document.
This information can influence the defendant, as Bureau of Prison officials may choose to separate codefendants from serving time in the same facility. Before going into the system, learn the implications from this report area. It could lead to the individual serving a sentence in prison thousands of miles away from family.
- Related Cases: Descriptions of any other cases that may be connected to the defendant’s case.
If other cases are involved, the defendant may want to work with counsel to prepare a statement of explanation.
- The Offense Conduct: Assessment of the defendant’s crime.
The probation officer uses this section to report what happened in the offense. He bases this narrative on what the presentence investigation revealed, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the same information in a plea agreement or what took place during the trial.
Many probation officers will rely upon what others alleged rather than proven. Pay particularly close attention to this section to ensure its accuracy. This section can have lasting ramifications and enormous implications, including the sentencing enhancement to extend the sentence.
If the probation officer alleges “leadership” in this area, prison officials will consider that information when assessing whether the individual is suitable for minimum-security placement.
- Obstruction of Justice: Descriptions of any effort to impede the investigation.
Probation officers can allege obstruction of justice for any type of misstatement.
Accordingly, defendants must speak deliberately, measuring their words precisely when participating in a presentence investigation. A defendant doesn’t have to say anything to the probation officer.
If the defendant chooses to elaborate, the defendant should ensure that the probation officer doesn’t perceive him as deceitful or manipulative. Such accusations can lead to a sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice.
- Acceptance of Responsibility: A favorable factor that would lead to a downward adjustment in the sentencing range.
Some factors that can lead to this favorable-adjustment mechanism include payment of restitution, timeliness of the defendant’s admission of guilt; statements of remorse; engagement during the presentence investigation; and documented efforts at post-arrest rehabilitation.
- Offense level computations: Mathematical formula that determines sentencing guideline range. Determined by the U.S.S.G. or United States Sentencing Guidelines.
[dflip id=”1827″ ][/dflip]
This is the section where the probation officer applies a combination of his findings from the investigation and the sentencing range that federal sentencing guidelines recommend. On occasion, the probation officer arrives at a sentence that differs from the range agreed upon by the prosecution and defense. The sentencing judge makes the final decision.
- Offense Behavior Not Part of Relevant Conduct: Potentially damaging area of the report.
Sometimes, the parties agree to dismiss specific counts to secure a guilty plea. But the probation officer may discuss those dismissed counts in this area, even though there was no finding of guilt.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Prisons may rely upon this section when classifying an individual. Pay close attention to this area. Take every effort to ensure that descriptions do not accuse the defendant in ways that can cause potential problems during the prison sentence.
Part B—Defendant’s Criminal History: This section provides historical data to influence how Bureau of Prison officials classify an offender.
This entire section may or may not influence the judge at sentencing, but prison officials scrutinize it closely when classifying an offender. The information it contains may influence crucial factors, including:
o Whether the individual qualifies for programs that can reduce the sentence.
o The security level where an individual will serve his sentence.
o The access an individual will have to opportunities in prison.
o The types of programs that prison officials will mandate for the individual.
o The type of job where prison officials will force the individual to work.
o The amount of time an individual may have access to a telephone.
o The amount of time an individual may have access to visiting.
o The prison location where an individual will serve his sentence.
o The amount of money an individual may spend in the commissary.
o The amount of money an individual may have to pay toward financial sanctions while in custody.
o The possibility of being sentenced to a “Cost of Incarceration Fee,” meaning that he would have to pay thousands each month toward his cost of confinement.
Learn the relevance of the Presentence Investigation Report. Attorneys who lack experience with the Bureau of Prisons fail to appreciate the magnitude of this document’s influence on the individual’s journey through the prison system.
Individuals who would like more personalized guidance may want to contact us here.
If you’re working with an attorney preparing you to understand the relationship between your answers to all of the questions above, you should be well prepared for the best possible outcome from the presentence investigation. If not, we encourage you to make sure that you prepare yourself independently or work with a consultant who can guide you.