Presentence Investigations and Reports

A pre-sentence investigation is one tool used by a judge when determining the appropriate sentence in a case. But, it’s used for more than this. Though the term varies from state to state, this type of investigation and the resulting presentence report is used throughout the courts and the entire criminal justice system as a way of determining everything from whether or not you will serve jail time or if you might be benefited by treatment.

When are Presentence Investigations Used?

Usually judges request presentence investigations in all felony cases. In some states it’s mandated by law. And depending on your case and the jurisdiction it is being handled in, they may be used for misdemeanors as well.

Who Conducts the Investigation?

A probation officer or other investigating officer from the state Department of Corrections is usually assigned to your case to do a presentence investigation. Typically the department has a special group of officers whose sole task is to complete these sorts of investigations.

What’s Included in a Presentence Investigation?

Presentence investigations can be very thorough. Because judges use them to determine the appropriate sentence in your case, they need to include a lot of information. Your presentence report might feature some of the following:

  • Details of Offense
  • Criminal History
  • Mental Health Evaluation
  • Mental Health History
  • Any Pertinent Medical Issues
  • Drug Abuse History
  • Employment History and Current Status
  • Family Background
  • Educational History
  • Financial Information
  • Victim Statements

Any piece of information that may divulge data about your character, your shortcomings, or your propensity towards crime will be shared in this report.

How Does The Court Get This Information for the Pre-Sentencing Investigation?

You might be surprised how much information is available to the public, particularly when they work for the state. But, much of this information will come from you, people who know you, and any potential victims in your case through interviews.

How Is It Used By The Judge?

A judge takes several things into consideration when determining what your sentence will be. First and foremost is the law. But aside from any guidelines within the statute, they will glean the majority of their information from the presentence report submitted to them by the investigating officer.

What a judge is looking for when reading over the report is what sentence will serve you and the community the best. They will consider public safety and the likelihood that you will reoffend. Things like your employment status and your family situation, for instance, may weigh in your favor if they are shown to be supportive factors.

If they determine you are a good candidate for community supervision (probation), they may use your mental health or drug history to mandate that you receive treatment as a condition of your probation. They could also require you to find work or pay restitution after reading through the presentence report.

Who Else Uses the Presentence Report?

The information contained within the presentence report is useful to anyone who handles your case after the judge. If you are sentenced to probation, your supervising officer will have access to the report, using it to determine how best to supervise you. If you are sent to prison, your presentence report will follow you there as well, being used for classification measures and to determine where you are housed.

Can I Have Any Input to My Presentence Investigation Report?

While you may be interviewed for the presentence report, you don’t typically get any first hand input into the final product. It is a product of the court and the corrections department. But, your defense attorney will have access to the report and can help you make sure that the information as portrayed to the judge is accurate.

If you’re facing criminal charges and are concerned about this stage of the sentencing process, you have every right to be. A criminal past revealed within the investigation can dramatically impact the length and type of your sentence.