The Presentence Investigation Report: The Enemy of the Incompetent Lawyer

One of the biggest obstacles in the state of Michigan to advising a client to take a plea in a criminal case is the Presentence Investigation Report which has affectionately become known as the “PSI”. The “PSI” can be a friend or an enemy of the criminal defendant but many lawyers seem to forget to educate their clients on this crucial issue. Today, we will delve into an understanding of a “PSI” and explain why the attorney’s job is not done once the agreement has been reached.

The “PSI” Defined

A “PSI” is a legal term referring to the investigation into the history of a person convicted of a crime before sentencing to determine if there are extenuating circumstances which should ameliorate the sentence or a history of criminal behavior to increase the harshness of the sentence. The “PSI” has been said to fulfill a number of purposes, including serving as a charging document and exhibit proving criminal conduct, and is said to be akin to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation. While the understanding seems to be clear, the application can present a great deal of issues if an attorney does not prepare their client for what stands after an agreement has been reached. To dig deeper into the issue, we sat down for several lawyers that have excelled in client communications on the matter. Let’s review what these attorneys have had to say on the issue.

The Leaders in the Field

When the topic of criminal law in Michigan is broached, there is no question that Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates is the name at the top of the list. Known as the most talented criminal lawyer in the state of Michigan and a reputation that has spanned throughout the Midwest, Grabel spoke of the “PSI” and the dangers that it presents. Grabel stated, “What many lawyers do not realize is the amount of controversy that stems from the issue. Hearsay can be utilized in the review of the “PSI” which means that the probation department has the opportunity to go rogue even after a valuable plea has been reached. The key to success at this level is to educate your client on what exactly stands before them at this level. We evolve from being an advocate to being their coach at this level and if we do not educate them properly we could lose what was accomplished in the blink of an eye.”

Matthew McManus of Ann Arbor Legal added to what Grabel stated. “I’ve seen clients completely compromise their position when they went to probation. What the client needs to realize is that the report is the last thing standing in their way of freedom or a reduced sentence. The attorney needs to educate the client.”

Ravi Gurumurthy of Michigan Legal North and Grabel and Associates added, “The “PSI” is the blind spot for the attorney that is not prepared. If we do not lead our client after the plea we can lose the plea. This is a painful lesson that many do not seem to understand or care about. A lesson like this can separate a leader such as Scott Grabel from the average attorney. Grabel would educate the client throughout while the average attorney things that the game is over before the clock reads triple zeros.”

While the “PSI” is crucial to the understanding of what the client faces, it is a topic that often overlooked. Without the attorney educating the client throughout the entire process, the efforts expanded on a case could fall apart and freedom is the price that a client will pay.

William Amadeo is a partner at the law firm Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates. In addition to his duties in the litigation sector, he is the owner and operator of BAT Tutoring and a journalist for “The Chronicle News” that is published throughout the state of Michigan. He can be reached at

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