Presentence Reports

Federal and State courts allow for psychological evaluations to inform the presentencing stage of some court proceedings.  The goal of the presentence psychological report is to provide the additional information the court needs before determining a sentence.  The psychological evaluation is a means of gaining insight into factors such as the defendant’s history and his medical and mental health needs.  The presentence reports are commonly used to present mitigating evidence.  Presentence reports and mitigation reports are based on a review records, collateral interviews, and psychological interview and testing of the defendant.

There are several types of presentence reports.  Here are some examples:

US Code Title 18 § 3552 (b) Presentence Study by Bureau of Prisons: If the court, before or after its receipt of a report specified in subsection (a) or (c), desires more information than is otherwise available to it as a basis for determining the sentence to be imposed on a defendant found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, it may order a study of the defendant. The study shall be conducted in the local community by qualified consultants unless the sentencing judge finds that there is a compelling reason for the study to be done by the Bureau of Prisons or there are no adequate professional resources available in the local community to perform the study…The order shall specify the additional information that the court needs before determining the sentence to be imposed…The study shall inquire into such matters as are specified by the court and any other matters that the Bureau of Prisons or the professional consultants believe are pertinent to the factors set forth in 3553 (a).

US Code Title 18 § 3552(c) Presentence Examination and Report by Psychiatric or Psychological Examiners: If the court, before or after its receipt of a report specified in subsection (a) or (b) desires more information than is otherwise available to it as a basis for determining the mental condition of the defendant, the court may order the same psychiatric or psychological examination and report thereon as may be ordered under section 4244 (b) of this title.

US Code Title 18 § 4244 (a) Motion To Determine Present Mental Condition of Convicted Defendant: A defendant found guilty of an offense, or the attorney for the Government, may, within ten days after the defendant is found guilty, and prior to the time the defendant is sentenced, file a motion for a hearing on the present mental condition of the defendant if the motion is supported by substantial information indicating that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect for the treatment of which he is in need of custody for care or treatment in a suitable facility. The court shall grant the motion, or at any time prior to the sentencing of the defendant shall order such a hearing on its own motion, if it is of the opinion that there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect for the treatment of which he is in need of custody for care or treatment in a suitable facility. (b) Psychiatric or Psychological Examination and Report: Prior to the date of the hearing, the court may order that a psychiatric or psychological examination of the defendant be conducted, and that a psychiatric or psychological report be filed with the court, pursuant to the provisions of section 4247 (b) and (c). In addition to the information required to be included in the psychiatric or psychological report pursuant to the provisions of section 4247 (c), if the report includes an opinion by the examiners that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect but that it is not such as to require his custody for care or treatment in a suitable facility, the report shall also include an opinion by the examiner concerning the sentencing alternatives that could best accord the defendant the kind of treatment he does need.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.12 Sec. 9 (i): A presentence investigation conducted on any defendant convicted of a felony offense who appears to the judge through its own observation or on suggestion of a party to have a mental impairment shall include a psychological evaluation which determines, at a minimum, the defendant’s IQ and adaptive behavior score. The results of the evaluation shall be included in the report to the judge as required by Subsection (a) of this section.

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.713 (c) On motion of the defendant or the prosecutor or on its own motion, the sentencing court may order the defendant to submit to a mental or physical examination that would be relevant to the sentencing decision.

Diminished Capacity Psychological Evaluations are also conducted during the presentence stage of some legal proceedings.  A successful plea of diminished capacity results in a finding of Guilty, with a reduced sentence.  For example, the US Sentencing Guidelines (5K2.13) state that a downward departure may be warranted if (1) the defendant committed the offense while suffering from a significantly reduced mental capacity; and (2) the significantly reduced mental capacity contributed substantially to the commission of the offense. Similarly, if a departure is warranted under this policy statement, the extent of the departure should reflect the extent to which the reduced mental capacity contributed to the commission of the offense.   However, the court may not depart below the applicable guideline range if (1) the significantly reduced mental capacity was caused by the voluntary use of drugs or other intoxicants; (2) the facts and circumstances of the defendant’s offense indicate a need to protect the public because the offense involved actual violence or a serious threat of violence; (3) the defendant’s criminal history indicates a need to incarcerate the defendant to protect the public; or (4) the defendant has been convicted of an offense under chapter 71, 109A, 110, or 117, of title 18, United States Code.  “Significantly reduced mental capacity” means the defendant, although convicted, has a significantly impaired ability to (A) understand the wrongfulness of the behavior comprising the offense or to exercise the power of reason; or (B) control behavior that the defendant knows is wrongful.

Based in South Florida, Florida Forensic Psychology conducts Presentence Evaluations, Diminished Capacity Evaluations, and Mitigation Evaluations in all of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and other states.