THE PRESENTENCE INVESTIGATION REPORT
The reality is that most Federal cases end up in a guilty plea and sentencing.
Because of this, the Presentence Investigation Report (or "PSR") has become an important part of Federal criminal practice. After all, the Presentence Investigation report will include a calculation of the applicable advisory Federal Sentencing Guideline range, and detail what, if any, enhancements may apply.
Put another way, the "PSR" is going to provide the sentencing judge with a recommendation as to how much prison time (if any) is warranted and whether certain "treatment modalities" (such as the Bureau of Prison's Residential Drug Addiction Program) the defendant is eligible to participate in.
OBJECTIONS AND DOWNWARD DEPARTURES
Remember, a sentencing judge has to calculate an advisory Sentencing Guideline range and will depend on the United State's Probation Office's calculation in the PSR. A savvy criminal defense lawyer will challenge the United States Probation Officer's Guidelines estimate and will seek to lower the advisory Guideline range through a series of both factual and legal objections, motions for downward departure,
and requests for a "minor" or "minimal" role adjustment.
These objections and motions for downward departures, role adjustments and so forth are made within the Guidelines' complex point scheme. A request for a "variance," or for a sentence outside of the advisory Guidelines framework, is an additional and effective tool to lower suggested prison terms.
WHAT'S IN THE PSR?
Topics covered by the "PSR" include family history, education, employment, physical health, mental health, criminal history, and finances. The probation officer usually asks the interviewee to sign several
authorizations to obtain different types of records, including employment, education, health and tax records. Additionally, for those clients who are released on bail, a drug test may be conducted at the time of the interview. The probation officer verifies these reports through secondary interviews with members of the defendant's family, employers, and (even) an in-home visit.
It is my practice to always be present at the interview.