Presentence Investigation

Presentence Investigation in the United States

Information gathering about a convicted offender to be used by a judge in determining sentence. In many jurisdictions, presentence investigations are required by statute or mandated by court rules. Even where such investigations are not required, they are conducted at the discretion of sentencing judges. Presentence investigations are done by probation officers and take place during the period between conviction and sentencing, a period typically running from 10 to 20 working days. The investigation includes consideration of the offense, information provided by the defendant, record of previous offenses, psychological evidence if pertinent, and a general social history. Information on these matters is drawn from the police report and interviews with appropriate people.

See Also

Sentence (Criminal Process).

Analysis and Relevance

The presentence investigation and report provides important information for a sentencing judge. This report is particularly important in those cases that are concluded by plea agreement as opposed to trial because the sentencing judge has virtually no other exposure to the defendant before sentencing. In most jurisdictions, the presentence report also includes a sentencing recommendation by the investigator. While judges are not required to adopt these recommendations, they generally do so. The investigator’s recommendation tends to be based, at least in part, on notions of the “typical” sentences for particular offenses and defendant characteristics. Actual sentencing data may be used to determine a “usual” sentence. As a result, sentences based on such recommendations tend to be similar.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Presentence Investigation from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Presentence Investigation: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Presentence Investigation. This part provides references, in relation to Presentence Investigation, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Presentence Investigation by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Presentence Investigation and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Presentence Investigation or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Presentence Investigation and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Presentence Investigation. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Presentence Investigation should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Presentence Investigation when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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