What is a Pre-Sentence Investigation, or PSI?
If you take a plea that includes a possible sentence of probation, or if you are found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony at trial, a judge may order you to undergo a pre-sentence investigation, also known as a PSI.
The PSI will be performed by the Office of Probation in the county where you live. So, for example, if you are a resident of Livingston County who takes a plea to a misdemeanor in Monroe County, the judge in Monroe County will order a PSI. The Livingston County Office of Probation will then schedule an appointment for you to come in and speak with them.
You should bring some sort of government-issued photo identification with you, pay stubs if you are working, and you should be ready to answer questions about names, birthdays, addresses and phone numbers for your parents, siblings, and people with whom you have a child in common.
There are a few important things to know about pre-sentence investigations.
- You may need to report to the Probation Department immediately after taking the plea offer. The PSI will not be held that day, but Probation will collect your contact information so that they can contact you later. If you are taking a plea to a felony in Ontario or Livingston Counties, there will be a probation officer right in the courtroom, and you can speak with them at court. In Rochester City Court or Monroe County or Supreme Courts, you will need to report to Probation immediately after taking the plea.
- You need to show up on time to the PSI. If you don't show up or fully cooperate with the PSI, the judge may not be bound to her sentence promise. On a misdemeanor plea, that means that the judge could throw out the probation promise and sentence you to jail.
- If for some reason you withdraw your plea and your case goes to trial after the PSI, the only way your PSI statements can be used against you is if you take the stand at trial, and then testify under oath in a way that is inconsistent with the statements you made at the PSI. So, tell the truth in the PSI, just like you tell the truth on the stand in a courtroom.
- When you are at a PSI for a DWI, the intake officer will ask you what happened that evening. Don't downplay any aspect of it. Don't say you didn't feel drunk, or that you thought you were okay to drive. The probation officer is going to report whether you have any remorse and whether you understand the seriousness of the crime you pled to. If you deny doing anything wrong, or if you downplay your behavior, the judge may very well reject your plea and set the case down for trial. This is not a time to act like what you did was not a big deal. The probation officer won't actually ask, "Do you feel remorse?" They will ask other questions, like these:
- The probation officer may ask you if you felt "okay to drive." I'll tell you right now; if you are sitting in a pre-sentence investigation for a drunk driving charge, you were NOT okay to drive. Answer the question wisely.
- The probation officer may ask if, "looking back on that evening, should you have been driving?" Again, I'll tell you that if you are sitting in a pre-sentence investigation for a drunk driving charge, you should NOT have been driving. Again, answer the question wisely.
- The probation officer may ask if you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. Here is the reality: anybody who is about to undergo a pre-sentence investigation for a DWI or DWAI Drugs has a problem with alcohol or drugs. It's actually a really big problem; you could go to jail because of this charge. If you have not already done so, please get a substance abuse assessment and start working on the problem that landed you here.
Items to bring to a PSI:
- Driver's License or Passport (Or some form of government-issued ID.)
- Recent paystub
- School Schedule
- Names, addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers for your partner, parents, siblings, and children.
- A hard copy of your substance abuse assessment.
- A copy of your Fingerprint Response Summary (your rap sheet). Your lawyer should have this.
Here is contact information for a few nearby Probation Offices:
- Monroe County Office of Probation, 33 Fitzhugh St. N., Rochester, NY 14614 (585) 753-3674
- Ontario County Probation Department, 3010 County Complex Dr, Canandaigua, NY 14424 (585) 396-4222
- Livingston County Probation Department, Livingston County Government Center, 6 Court Street, Room 101, Geneseo, New York 14454 (585) 243-7190, (585) 335-1737
- Wayne County Probation Department, 7376 NY-31 Suite 1100, Lyons, NY 14489 (315) 946-7448
- Genesee County Probation Department, County Building I, 15 Main Street, Batavia, NY 14020 (585) 815-7807
If you have been ordered to undergo a pre-sentence investigation and the probation department in your county hasn't contacted you within two weeks of you taking the plea deal, call them to make sure they have your correct contact information.