Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ithaca Lawyer New York Felony PSI's: Understanding the Pre Sentence Process for Felonies



We live in a world of acronyms. This is especially true within the field of criminal law. Everything has a shortcut, a lingo of sorts used by the Courts, defense lawyers, and Judges. Afterall who wants to spend their lives using too many words, kinda funny when you think about it because all the above parties tend to live and breathe by the word. Some attorneys even charge by the word.

FAQs about the Felony PSI = Pre Sentence Investigation

When is a Felony PSI ordered?

After every plea of guilt to a felony level crime or a finding of guilt to a felony level offense the Court (Judge) MUST order a PSI.

How do we usually get to the Felony plea?

The majority of felony pleas occur by way of an SCI (Superior Court Information). The SCI in the best of terms is an agreement, a contract of sorts between you, and the DA. It is a deal, a plea bargain. The terms of the agreement will include a recommendation, sometimes a high (maximum) or a low(minimum) amount or number of county jail, state prison, community service, fines, etc. The SCI plays an important part of the process to save the Court and the District Attorney time and effort

Why isn't my Felony case staying at the City, Town, or Village Court?

Felony level cases (charges) have to be heard in County Court. In NYS the lower level (municipal) courts only have jurisdiction (authority) over crimes (criminal and traffic offenses) up to the misdemeanor level. Misdemeanor crimes can generally be punishable by up to one year in county jail. 

How does the Felony case move to the County Court?

All criminal cases first begin at the lower level (city, village, or town). If felony level charges are brought (leveled, upcharged) either at the onset (on arrest) or later on they must proven (PC = Probable Cause) to a Grand Jury of 16 people in order to INDICT for this level of crime. The DA MUST Bring an INDICTMENT within 6 months of the initial appearance.

The other way for the case to move to the County court with Felony charges is if you agree to the charges with a plea deal (the SCI). Whether by Indictment or SCI the lower Court will transfer all paperwork to the higher level Court.

Why was I arraigned twice ?

There is an arraignment at the lower level court and then when Felony charges are brought an initial appearance (arraignment) has to occur at the County Court. Bail or ROR (release on your own recognizance) will be decided by each Judge at each stage. More serious offenses have more exposure (potential punishment) so they may require assurance of your return to Court.

Who does the Felony PSI?

The probation department in the county you have residence must perform the investigation. This is true even if you are residing in a hotel or someone's home. This may create confusion, and add time to the process because the NYS county where the offense was first committed must contact their probation department who in turn transfers the information and the investigation to the NYS county of residence.

How Important is the Felony PSI?

It is vitally important to the outcome of your case, which is the final sentencing of the Judge. This is because the Judge and the DA depend on the Probation Department. They do not have the time or the incination to objectively uncover your life history, make an assessment of your needs, and to determine whether or not you are a candidate for "pure" rehabilitation and/or harsh or lenient punishment.

How do you prepare for the PSI?

With Felony PSIs I believe you must be ready to own what you did. This is the time to accept responsibility. The expression of true remorse that is sincere and heartfelt for whatever has occurred cannot be downplayed.

Seeking the right help, whether it is in the form of mental counseling and/or chemical addiction/treatment programs shows you are dealing with the cause of your issues. Probation and the Courts are often in the business of risk management. They do not want to see you fail in the future. They will expend time and resources to assist you.

How will I know what to do, say, and be for my Felony PSI?

You and your attorney should discuss a game plan right from the Get-Go.
This will include what you are going to do from the minute you are charged, to the minute you go to the PSI. How you live your life? How you spend your time? All of this will be under close scrutiny.
Getting out your complete life history to your attorney may uncover some good quality points. How to package this, and when to send this to the Judge and the DA are a matter of timing and strategy.

When it comes down to the final sentencing, it is your attorney's ability (and sometimes) yours to articulate your position with emotion and depth of heart.

I had a Felony DWI case with a construction worker last year. It was a second Felony, and the man was clearly struggling. He was looking at hard time in State Prison. He never got to rehab or treatment because he was always working, always supporting his family. The DA was jumping up and down on a year, no less. My story to the Judge went something like this:

"Your Honor, Mr.     has been living between a rock and a hard place. Admittingly he needs help, and yet the help he most surely needs means that those he loves will go unprovided for. We ask that the Court not punish this man for loving his family but help him get the help he needs ..."

It goes on past there but I think you get my point not everyone who is an alcoholic or that makes a mistake in judgment needs to be hung up to dry. There is abalnce point where the Courts, Judges, and DAs must tread to bring a sense of humanity to what they do. They are in the justice business and it is never fully served unless the cause is addressed. BTW the Judge came back with 90 days in the county jail and a treatment program on the above matter.

My disclaimer, just because that was the result in this case does not mean that I get that or any special result in any other case. Prior results do not always equal future results. I do promise this, I do the best with whatever is in front of me.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., J.D.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850

607-229-5184