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How to Prepare for Your Meeting With The Court’s Probation Department?

Soon after you are found guilty or plead guilty to a federal crime you will meet with a probation officer who will complete a presentence investigation and then prepare a report (PSIR) for the judge’s use at sentencing. The PSIR will also be used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). What follows is a description of the kind of information the probation officer will collect as well as how to prepare for your interview.

Why is the Federal Presentence Report Prepared?

The federal law of criminal procedure applicable to presentence reports is found at 18 U.S. Code § 3552, which provides that the preparation of the PSIR is mandatory and shall be prepared according to Rule 32 of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure. 18 U.S. Code § 3552 also provides that the report shall be submitted to the court before a person is sentenced. Furthermore, that the report must be provided to the defendant, their attorney and to the government lawyer at least 10 days prior to sentencing.

What Information is Collected Before or During the Federal Presentence Interview?

Rule 32 provides for all of the information a federal probation officer is required to collect from the defendant prior to sentencing. This information broadly includes the defendant’s biographical history and personal attributes that distinguish them from other offenders. This will include things like prior criminal history, if any, net worth and other detailed financial information, a description of life circumstances that may have impacted the defendant’s life and decision to engage in criminal behavior, psychological and mental health status, family history, drug use and rehabilitation history, and where appropriate, a description of non-incarcerative sentencing alternatives available. Rule 32 also provides that the defendant’s attorney must be given notice and reasonable opportunity to attend the presentence interview.

Additional related information will be collected as well. This will include race and ethnicity, gender, education, and past and present residence. The probation officer will ask you to state in your own words what you did, and will be looking for information as to whether you appear to accept responsibility for your actions. Much biographical data will be collected as well, such as marital status of your parents, what home life was like for you growing up, do you still have a relationship with your parents and siblings. Did you experience problems in the home growing up? What is your marital statutus and do you have any children. What is their status? A description of your physical and mental health. Do you have any professional or vocation licenses or certificates? Military history?

What Can I do to Prepare for My Presentence Interview?

To help you provide all the necessary information you are likely to be provided with one or more questionnaires that the United States Probation Officer will want you to complete and return prior to the interview. Follow this link to obtain a sample worksheet.

In addition to filling out this paperwork, you should discuss with your lawyer how you will prepare for the interview and how you will work together to provide with PO with all of the necessary information. The goal of this preparation is two-fold. First, you want to be sure that all favorable and mitigating information is in the report so that the sentencing judge has this information available in determining the individually appropriate sentence in your case. Secondly, you will want to be thinking ahead to any time you may be required to spend in prison. In this regard, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will be using the PSIR for a variety of reasons. These reasons are discussed in more detail below.

As part of this preparation, you may consider having one or more psychological evaluations done, and then bring the written evaluation to the interview. For example if you have been convicted of a drug crime, you may wish to have a substance use evaluation performed. If you are accused of child pornography or another sex crime, then you may wish to have a psychosexual evaluation done. These evaluations can be very helpful in conveying to the judge the kind of person you are and what you’ve done to address any underlying issues that brought you into the criminal justice system to begin with.

You might also consider having friends, family, co-workers, therapists, pastoral counselors, coaches, teachers, etc., prepare a letter of recommendation to the judge. These letters are most helpful if they address how you have responded to the criminal arrest, and measures you’ve taken to correct whatever life-circumstance lead to your arrest.

Also, a personal narrative can be very helpful. This personal narrative would read something like an AA testimony. In other words, it might contain a transparent, venerable and insightful description of your background and how this lead to you appearing before the judge and also, details about what you’ve done since the commission of the criminal act to help improve yourself and your situation. You want to convey to the judge the reasons why, despite your background and the instant office, you are nevertheless still a good candidate for rehabilitation rather than punishment.

What are the Seven Factors a Judge Must Consider at Sentencing?

Based on 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) there are 7 factors that a judge must consider when determing an aprorpatie sentenced for the offender. But this is the main thing a judge will want to know. The more they know about an individual, the stronger they become at determining the best possible sentence, especially based on booker opinion with advisory guidelines as a basis point. Will look at this and personal information and assess with GL.

How Does the Federal Bureau of Prisons Use the Presentence Report?

Correctional officer will not necessarily carefully refer to the PSR but will be looking at the bullet points.

Brings more understanding to the person as a person. Factors that influence the criminal behavior at hand. Story judge and prison system will take into consideration in making assessments about the person.

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