The Presentence Investigation
Upon a plea of guilty or conviction at trial, the court orders that a presentence investigation and report be completed by the United States Probation Office.
Presentence reports are required by Rule 32(c)(2) of the Federal Criminal Procedure. This rule directs that reports shall contain information regarding the defendant’s criminal history, background, and financial condition; guideline calculations; an assessment of victim impact; and any other information required by the court.
Why Another Investigation?
The main purpose of the presentence report is to assist the court in determining an appropriate sentence. The information gathered also aids the probation officer in supervision during probation, parole, or supervised release; aids the Bureau of Prisons in placement, classification, programming and release planning. If such information is not made available for this purpose, the Bureau of Prisons’ ability to make decisions regarding educational programming, furloughs, family visits, and prerelease planning may be impaired. Because the BOP uses the presentence report to make recommendations and plan prison based programs it is critically important to defendants that the information about them be accurate. For example, admission into the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) is now predicated upon documented drug use in the year leading to arrest.
The probation officer is an employee of the court, not the U. S. Attorney.
Questions You May Ask
The presentence report concentrates on knowing you as a person and the support you will have from your family and others. Although the investigation includes detail about the offense for which you are found guilty, this investigation is not for the purpose of bringing new charges against you.
Throughout this time of investigation you will continue to be supervised by the pretrial services officer unless the court modifies that order.
The probation officer will ask you for information about the offense, your prior criminal history (if any), and your personal and financial history. The financial information provided is important in determining if a fine will be imposed or waived. The investigator is not trying to get you into more trouble nor to place a heavier burden on your family than has already been caused by your offense. You should understand that in the absence of information showing that no fine, or that a lower fine, should be imposed, the court will ordinarily impose a fine within the guideline range; this should indicate the importance of supplying full disclosure. You should also be aware that information will also be requested from family members, employer, health provider, financial adviser, victims, the U.S. Attorney, local and state police and court records as well as other sources. You will be asked to sign releases to permit documents, records, and other information to be gathered for this purpose. You have the option to have your attorney present when you are personally interviewed by the probation officer and the right to refuse to disclose information. This option cannot be used to delay the investigation. Seek your attorney’s advice about the need for him/her to be present for the scheduled interview. The probation officer will ask questions in each of the relevant areas mentioned above. Answering or declining to answer questions posed can influence calculation of the sentence.
When the report is complete it will come under the scrutiny of yourself, your attorney and the U.S. Attorney and is subject to objection before the sentencing hearing. The probation officer will review all objections, modify the report if there is clearly a mistake, or provide the court with the objections along with a response. You, your attorney and the U.S. Attorney have the right to argue these objections before the court at the sentencing hearing. Until the sentence is pronounced we do not know what it will entail.