Saturday, May 22, 2010

New York DWIs and PSI Final Thoughts

On this beautiful Ithaca morning I have a few lingering thoughts concerning NY PSIs for DWIs.

The PSI (pre-sentence investigation) report is NOT a public document. Disclosure is limited to the defendant, defendant's attorney, the judge, and the prosecutor. In fact the report is usually held by the Court and can only be viewed by counsel and not copied nor circulated. Although I have had a number of Courts send me the report for viewing prior to sentencing this is more the exception than the rule.

Probation officers act as an agent of the Court. Their role is to assist the Court (the judge) in determining a fair and appropriate sentence. In certain criminal cases (other than DWIs) a client may opt for jail time in lieu of a lengthy period of probation. In NYS generally misdemeanor probation is three years and felony probation is five years. If Probation is recommended for a DWI it is usually not negotiated to a term of jail. DWI Probation (supervision) may be in addition to a term of jail but not in exchange for a term of jail.

The Purpose for probation in DWI cases is to assist the defendant in obtaining and maintaining sobriety. This specific and necessary purpose, namely to monitor (supervise) the defendant from drinking (any consumption of alcohol) or being in the presence of alcohol. A violation of probation by drinking, being around alcohol, or being in alcohol serving establishments generally results in a six month jail term. Sobriety is the goal. Treatment, classes, and rehabilitation are the means to reach and maintain an alcohol free life. With DWI probation this is taken very seriously, and there is no wiggle room for special events or for "I did not know" type excuses.