The Probation Interview Is Critically Important.
If you are being interviewed by a probation officer, you will want to make your best impression. Your lawyer should be working with you to prepare so that you are in a position to get a favorable recommendation.
What can I do to get a good recommendation in my PSI or PSIR (Pre-sentence Investigation Report)?
The impression you make at your probation interview can make a massive difference in the sentence ordered by the judge. A favorable recommendation can go a long way towards persuading a judge to impose a lenient sentence. An unfavorable recommendation might prompt a judge to be harsher than they might have otherwise been.
Tips for a Successful Presentence Interview with Probation
Fill out all documents provided by the probation department before the interview. Write very clearly and get help from your lawyer if you have any questions. If you need help answering a question, it is essential that you get assistance from your criminal defense lawyer.
Go well documented
Probation officers are overworked and underpaid, and they do not want to be running around trying to corroborate all the good things you tell them about yourself. Have documentation of education, employment, work history, mental health or drug treatment history, verification of current treatment or support group meetings, community service, religious activities and memberships, volunteerism, etc.
Don’t smoke prior to the interview
You do not want your breath to stink. Don’t smoke cigarettes, cigars, or marijuana before an interview with a probation officer. If you are a smoker, you might not be able to detect the lingering smell of smoke on your clothing.
Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs before the interview
It seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised! Probations officers are looking for signs of drug or alcohol use, including the smell of intoxicants, glassy eyes, unusual dilation of pupils, slurred speech, lack of balance or coordination, and more.
Dressed as if you are going on a job interview. Never wear revealing clothing, jeans, shorts, or similar casual clothing. Also, do not wear clothing or other items that demonstrate a political ideology or an antisocial mindset.
If you have family, friends, or coworkers that can write letters of support for sentencing, bring them to the probation interview. Make sure your lawyer gets a copy well in advance so that they can make any necessary suggestions. Letters should be addressed to the judge assigned to your case. Additionally, it is best if letters are typed, one page or less, are signed, dated, and contain the author’s contact information (phone number and/or email address).
If you see a probation officer for a presentence interview, chances are you’ve been convicted by trial or plea (guilty or no contest). The probation officer will positively consider genuine remorse. Conversely, if you blame others or fail to take responsibility, the presentence report will advise the judge of your lack of accountability. It is difficult to recover from an interview where the probation officer is left with the impression you do not take responsibility or blame others for your charge or conviction. If the judge believes you do not have remorse or show contrition for your actions, you could face unanticipated, harsh consequences.
Probation officers are used to being insulted and demeaned. Treat the probation officer as you would a potential employer during an interview for a job you want. If the probation officer is disrespectful or impolite, just ignore it. Do not take the bait and react to unprofessional behavior. If you perceive that the probation officer mistreats you, let it roll off your back without acknowledging their unprofessionalism.
Don’t push off blame on others
Taking responsibility doesn’t work when you blame others at the same time. Please don’t say that someone else made you do it, that the police were lying, or that the drugs or poverty are to blame. Many people are upset or angry about a conviction; that is natural. The probation officer and your judge will look unfavorably upon any resentment of the system, the court, the probation department, law enforcement, or someone the court considers “the victim.”
Be on time
Nothing blows a good first impression like being let to an interview. Be early and bring reading materials to keep yourself entertained while waiting for your appointment.
Questions Regarding the Offense
The probation officer will ask you about the offense at the interview. It is essential that you are prepared to answer these questions. If you plead guilty, be certain that your statements to the probation officer are consistent with the admissions you made in court at the time of your plea. If you plead no contest or nolo contendere, you should confer with your lawyer before answering the probation officer’s questions. In most cases, you will want to advise the probation officer that you “respectfully” cannot answer questions about the offense because you plead no contest and your lawyer advised you not to discuss the specifics of the case. Regardless of how you plead or what you say about the facts of the case, make sure you say that you are sorry. Be humble and show remorse. You do not want the probation officer to think you do not take full responsibility for the offense.
If you were convicted at trial and contest your guilt, you must speak with your attorney before discussing the offense with the probation officer. Any admissions you make to the probation officer can impact your appeal. Conversely, you can say things in your interview that might be helpful to your appeal. Although you might be angry and upset about a conviction you feel is unjust, do not take out your feelings on the probation officer. There is no excuse for being disrespectful or condescending during your presentence interview. A bad or discourteous attitude will only result in an unnecessarily severe sentence. Remember that the probation officer is only doing their job, and they are not for or against you.
How to Get a Good Recommendation
If you follow these simple guidelines, you should do well at the probation interview and you will be in the best possible position to receive a favorable sentence. Because each case is different, you should always take the time to speak to your lawyer before the interview to make sure you are handling everything just right. If you have questions about what to say or what information to bring to the interview, have a meeting with your attorney to review your documentation and address your concerns.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.