I wrote a blog recently about the consequences that can follow a bad presentence report (PSR). I received a number of calls and emails from defendants asking about the PSR and specifically how they could properly prepare for their interview. I cannot, in one blog, attempt to breakdown all there is to know about the PSR. I will, however, provide a summary and I will take that summary directly from my lesson plan on the PSR.
Lesson Plan 2 – Pre Sentence Investigation
“A defendant who anticipates a pre sentence interview could take the following proactive steps:
• Prior to meeting with the probation officer, a defendant could write a narrative that would explain, but not excuse, his current circumstances.
• The defendant could take steps to document any mitigating factors that might positively influence the way a probation officer or judge perceives his overall character.
• The defendant could reach out to individuals in the community who may offer character references and validate the defendant’s contributions.
• The defendant could prepare a list of references that might corroborate extenuating circumstances that led to the conviction, or show that the defendant is much more than what the criminal conviction may suggest.
• The defendant could document a record of good works that would be included in the finished PSI report.
• The defendant could prepare a response that would express remorse and demonstrate his commitment to living as a law-abiding, contributing citizen.
• The defendant can prepare his family members and friends for the reality that a federal probation officer may make unexpected and uncomfortable inquiries about the defendant’s character.
• The defendant can research possible alternative sentences and prepare a plan, or argument that might prove persuasive to the probation officer as a viable option.
• The defendant may improve his profile by engaging in some type of activity that would suggest his suitability for a less onerous sentence.
At White Collar Advice, we encourage our clients to prepare. They begin those preparations by recognizing that they must deal with the world as it exists and not as they would like it to be. Although a defendant may be new to the criminal justice system, the federal probation officer who was tasked with conducting a presentence investigation is not new. Federal probation officers interact with individuals who’ve been convicted of felonies every day. Those interactions make many probation officers cynical about anything a defendant says. If a defendant can accept that reality, the defendant can take appropriate measures. Those measures are going to be unique for every individual. Competent council may play a role in guiding the defendant through a presentence investigation. Defendants who are unfortunate to have lawyers that are indifferent to the journey through prison should be proactive. They should learn everything they can about the system before they surrender to prison. Defendants who know what lies ahead will be more capable of visualizing the best possible outcome given their current circumstances. Once they can define the best possible outcome, an individual should craft a plan that will deliver the desired outcome.”
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