What is a Presentence Investigation (PSI)?
You’ve been convicted or pled guilty to a crime and have a date scheduled to get sentenced. In your upcoming sentencing hearing, has the Court ordered a “PSI”?
The court may, and sometimes must, order what is called a presentence investigation or PSI (Minnesota Statutes § 609.115). A PSI is conducted by a probation officer, or a social worker or psychologist in the probation department. After the investigation, the probation officer writes a report about the defendant that is given to the Court and attorneys on the case.
When are these investigations happening?
A presentence investigation occurs between the defendant’s plea hearing and their sentencing hearing. In a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor plea, the court can order a PSI, but it does not have to. But in a felony plea, the court must order a PSI for the defendant.
What’s in the report?
The PSI and ensuing report includes information about the defendant including:
- Their characteristics;
- Their needs;
- Their latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success;
- Their criminal record and nature of their current crime; and
- Their social history and relationships with family and friends.
This type of information is usually gathered from multiple sources and people such as:
- The defendant (the probation officer will usually conduct a one-on-one interview with the defendant for their report);
- Letters from family and friends that the defendant’s attorney may have gathered;
- The defense attorney (a good one will likely provide proof of proactive steps their client has made since the incident);
- Statements from the victim of the crime (also known as a “victim impact statement”); and
- Assessment results and recommendations (e.g. chemical use, compulsive gambling, or anger management assessments).
Once the probation officer gathers all the information about the defendant, the sentencing hearing will occur and most of this information, unless protected by some form of confidentiality, is shared in court and with the judge.