Defendants who encounter the criminal justice system for the first time rarely invest the time and resources necessary to understand the relevance of the Presentence Investigation Report. Basically, after a finding of guilt, a federal judge will order an officer from federal probation to initiate a Presentence Investigation. The probation officer will conduct some preliminary background work to learn what the United States Attorney had to say about the case. The probation officer may also interview law enforcement officers who were involved in the case and the probation officer will want to hear what victims had to say as well.
Within a few days or weeks of the conviction, the probation officer will meet with the defendant. That meeting between the defendant and the probation officer is of monumental importance. The probation officer will listen to what the defendant has to say and take detailed notes. If the defendant fails to appreciate the importance of the Presentence Investigation Report, he may make comments that result in his serving more time in prison than necessary. He also may find that his Presentence Investigation Report results in his serving his sentence in a Bureau of Prisons facility that has more restrictions than would otherwise be warranted in his case.
Since the Presentence Investigation Report has such enormous implications on a defendant’s case, at Prison Professor we strongly recommend this lesson as a starting point for all of our clients.