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The Presentence Investigation Report (PSI), which is prepared by a U.S. Probation Officer, is perhaps one of the most important documents in the federal criminal sentencing process, frequently providing the basis for important sentencing decisions made by the Court. In preparing the report, U.S. Probation Officers function as independent fact finders for the Court and provide the Court with relevant, unbiased information. Moreover, since the advent of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, U.S. Probation Officers have become known as "specialists" in the area of guideline sentencing.


Though the primary purpose of the PSI is to assist the Court in its sentencing function, the report is also a valuable resource to the Bureau of Prisons in determining which institution the offender will serve his/her sentence, select prison programs that will help with the offender and make release plans. The report is also used for future supervision of the defendant by the U.S. Probation Office upon release from prison. The information contained in each section of the report provides these agencies with valuable intelligence, which will assist them in their respective functions. Thus, it is crucial that the U.S. Probation Officer present complete, verified information regarding the defendant's background, character, and conduct.


To complete the presentence report, a probation officer makes a thorough investigation, a presentence investigation, into the circumstances of the offense and the offender's criminal background and characteristics. The officer gathers information two ways: by conducting interviews and by reviewing documents. The cornerstone of the investigation is the interview with the defendant, during which the officer inquires about such things as the defendant's family, education, employment, finances, physical and mental health, and alcohol/substance abuse. The officer also conducts a home visit to assess the defendant's living conditions, family relationships, and community ties.


The officer also interviews other persons who can provide pertinent information about the defendant (i.e., a spouse, child, parent, employer) and the offense (victims, prosecutor, investigating agent, co-conspirators).


The Northern District of Ohio provides the Court with a comprehensive PSI in every case which is accurate and distinguishes between information which is verified and unverified as well as the difference between fact and opinion. Furthermore, U.S. Probation Officers in the Northern District present a thorough personal profile of each defendant, recognizing that others rely upon that information to classify prisoners and supervise offenders. These lofty goals are accomplished through the sustained efforts of the U.S. Probation Officers.


Presentence FAQs

How can I find out who is writing my presentence report?

You may call the U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation Office located in the courthouse in which you pled (i.e. Akron, Cleveland, Toledo, or Youngstown) and ask the duty officer which officer was assigned your case.

Do I still need to report to Pretrial Services while my Presentence Report is being completed?

You must continue to report, as directed, to the U.S. Pretrial Services. Following your plea, a presentence officer will be assigned to your case for the sole purpose of conducting a presentence investigation and preparing a presentence report for the Court. This presentence officer will not be your supervision officer. While your presentence report is being prepared for the Court, please remember you are still on bond and need to follow the directives of you pretrial services officer.

How can I obtain a copy of a presentence report?

Presentence reports are highly confidential and are only released to the defendant, the defense attorney, the United States Attorney, and the Court. No other party will receive a copy of this report unless granted permission by the Court. If you think you are, for some other reason, entitled to a copy of the presentence report, you may contact the assigned presentence officer or duty officer to discuss the issue.

If I am sentenced to a prison term, will I be taken into custody at sentencing?

Not necessarily. Some defendants are permitted to voluntarily surrender. This is a decision made by the judicial officer at the time of sentencing. If allowed to self surrender, you are able to return home. Within six weeks of sentencing you should receive a letter from the U.S. Marshal Service advising you of the date, time, and federal facility to which you must report. It is your responsibility to report as required to the designated federal facility.