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Getting to Know You: Effective Preparation for the Presentence Investigation Interview


If you are about to be sentenced on a criminal offense, and already know about standard range sentencing, you may be wondering how does the sentencing judge arrive at the sentence he did? What does he know about my case and my life to justify issuing a sentence in my case? The judge will consider your prior record, the seriousness of the offense, and argument made by your attorney at sentencing. However, in addition to all of these items, one of the strongest aids in sentencing for a judge is the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI), governed by Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 702.

Prior to sentencing, defendants may be ordered to participate in a presentence investigatory interview. That interview is a great opportunity to gain insight into the life and circumstances of each individual offender. A PSI will include factual details such as prior criminal record, past residences, family relationships and children, as well as employment history. However, the interview also affords the offender the opportunity to give their version of the events that happened as well as give an insight into their life circumstances that led them to where they are today. This may include talking about addiction and substances abuse issues, prior abuse they may have suffered, and their role in supporting their spouse and children. A Victim-Impact statement is taken from the victim of the crime and included in this report as well.

As part of the presentence investigation, a judge may order a physical or mental health examination. This allows the judge to take into account potential mental health issues as well as physical disabilities that may cause the offender hardship or explain some of their actions. This information may be taken into account by the Department of Corrections when fashioning a rehabilitation plan for the offender as well.

A sentencing judge has the discretion to order a PSI in any criminal case. In cases where incarceration of a year or more is possible, or the defendant is less than the age of 21, or if this is an offender’s first adult offense, the judge must place reasons on the record for foregoing the PSI requirement, otherwise the later sentence may be considered an abuse of discretion and subject to appeal.

Sun Tzu in The Art of War, said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” Win first by being pepared. If you have been convicted on criminal charges, the proper preparation before the PSI interview can set the tone for your entire sentencing hearing. Attorney Frank Walker can counsel you on what to expect at the PSI interview, and prepare you to put your best foot forward. When it comes time for sentencing, win before you go in by retaining Walker Law today! Call us now at (412) 212-3878 for the Pittsburgh Office, and (304) 712-2089 for our office in Morgantown.