A PSI, or presentence investigation, occurs after a conviction and before sentencing. In virtually all felony cases, a PSI will take place before the judge pronounces the sentence. In domestic abuse cases, regardless of the level of offense, a domestic abuse PSI will generally occur before sentencing. In some counties, the court will require a PSI for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor DWIs – however, that is not the norm statewide.

What Happens During a PSI?

A PSI is an interview with a probation officer. That probation officer will want to get information about your background, including criminal history, employment, addresses, etc. They will also want to discuss the incident with you. They usually ask you to write out your recollection of the events leading up to and including the incident that resulted in the charges in your case. They will also want to talk about the incident either in person or over the phone. For those that plead guilty to the offense, some sense or remorse or taking responsibility during this part of the process is generally not a bad idea.

If alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident, the probation officer will also want to gauge your past and current level of chemical dependency. This can be as simple as asking you how often you drink or use drugs, what you use, why you use, and how much you have used in the past. The probation officer will also ask for collateral contacts, usually at least two people, that know you well. They will then want to contact those people to try and verify the information you provided.  They will then use this data, along with their own observations and research, to determine what level of chemical dependency programming to recommend.

In domestic abuse cases, the PSI will include past and current issues surrounding anger management and abuse. As with chemical dependency, some level of programming may be recommended by the probation officer to address those potential issues. Additionally, the victim in the case will be contacted to address whether they want to provide an impact statement to the court either in writing, or in person, for sentencing. The victim will also provide input about whether they desire a probationary DANCO (domestic abuse no contact order). Further, victims can provide input about whether they request any restitution, which would cover out-of-pocket expenses for such things as medical bills or property damage.

What Happens After a PSI?

Prior to the sentencing hearing, the probation officer will file with the court the PSI report. The prosecutor, judge, and defense attorney should all get a copy of it. Sometimes, it does not get filed until the day before, or day of, the sentencing hearing. In some counties, the court requires judge approval to share the PSI report with the defendant.

One of the most important parts of the report is the recommendations from the probation officer. When there is not an agreement on jail or prison time, this recommendation can carry significant weight as to what the judge may impose. The report will also recommend how long probation should be and the probationary conditions requested, such as whether they believe a no use of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs condition should be imposed and treatment recommendations. Regardless of what the recommendations of the PSI are, your attorney, and you, will be able to make arguments to the judge to ask what you think the sentence should be.