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Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 09:55 am
When someone is convicted of a federal crime, one of the most important documents for determining their sentence is something called a presentence investigation report, or PSR. This report is put together by a probation officer and contains a ton of background information that gives the judge a full picture of the defendant as a person. The details in the PSR help the judge figure out what an appropriate sentence should be. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly goes into a federal PSR and why it’s so crucial for sentencing.
A federal PSR has a bunch of different sections covering all aspects of the defendant’s history and the details of the crime they were convicted of. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll find in a PSR:
The probation officer has to conduct a pretty thorough investigation to put all this together. They’ll interview the defendant, their family, any victims, and witnesses. They’ll pull together records from courts, police, schools, doctors, employers, etc. It’s a ton of work gathering everything needed for the PSR!
So why does the court care about this long detailed report on the defendant’s life? Well, the PSR gives the judge a full understanding of the person being sentenced and all the factors that played into the crime they committed. That allows the judge to make an informed decision on what type of sentence will be fair and just. Here’s some of the key ways the PSR influences sentencing:
While the judge has final say on the sentence, the PSR gives them a guidepost to start from that takes into account all aspects of the case. Both the prosecution and defense can also argue how the PSR should impact the sentencing decision.
Since the PSR often heavily influences the sentence, it’s important for defendants to review it closely and challenge any inaccurate or misleading information. Here are some key ways a federal PSR can be contested:
While judges usually rely heavily on the PSR, they will resolve any objections that impact the sentencing guidelines or their determination of an appropriate sentence. So it pays for the defense to thoroughly review the PSR for any issues.
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