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Presentence Investigation

What to Expect During the Presentence Interview

One of the most important elements of the presentence investigation is the probation officer’s interview with the defendant. The interview often takes place following the change of plea hearing or after a guilty verdict; the probation officer will schedule a time for the presentence report interview, consulting the defendant’s schedule as well as that of his/her attorney.

During the interview the officer may ask the defendant about the following:

  • the offense to which he/she pled or was found guilty;
  • prior criminal history;
  • family background;
  • education / employment;
  • finances;
  • physical and mental health; and
  • alcohol / drug abuse.

The probation officer will also ask the defendant to provide the name and contact information for a family member or close friend who can verify the defendant’s personal history information. The probation officer may ask the defendant to provide documentation of information provided during the interview such as financial records, birth/marriage/divorce records, school transcripts, employment records, military service records, medical records, or medical or counseling records. If the defendant is unable or unwilling to provide this documentation, the probation officer will seek to obtain it independently. Probation officers may also visit the defendant’s residence to assess the defendant’s living condition, family relationships and community ties.

Should the defendant choose not to participate in the presentence interview or answer questions during the interview, a lack of information in the report concerning particular subjects may restrict the defendant’s access to programs offered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons if the defendant is incarcerated. Lack of information on some matters may also impact the calculation of the advisory sentencing guidelines. Defendants are encouraged to consult with his/her attorney regarding what information to provide during the presentence investigation interview. Defendants should plan to be at the presentence interview for approximately one hour. Most attorneys choose to be present during the presentence investigation interview.


Presentence Investigation Forms