criminal court records
Probation and Sentencing Reports
In California, if a defendant in a felony case has been convicted of a crime, a probation report will be prepared on the person.
The report is prepared in both plea bargains and jury verdicts, and it will be filed as part of the court record.
A probation report, prepared by the county probation department, is done to help the judge decide the appropriate sentence for the defendant. The report provides information such as:
- a description of the circumstances of the crime
- the person's family and work history.
- psychological evaluations of the person.
- an interview with the person.
- a detailed criminal history of the person, including prior criminal charges that were filed against him/her and in which courts they were filed. This is one of the only places where you can find a public record of a person's criminal history.
- a recommended sentence
The probation reports are sealed 60 days after a person is sentenced and are then no longer publicly available.
The only exception is if the person is charged with a new crime, in which case probation reports from the person's previous convictions are unsealed and available for public inspection in the courts where the previous convictions occurred.
Section 1203.05 of the California Penal Code specifies when a probation report is open to public inspection, including reports filed in a previous court case that should be unsealed when a new charge has been filed against the person:
"Any report of the probation officer filed with the court, including any report arising out of a previous arrest of the person who is the subject of the report, may be inspected or copied only as follows:"
"(a) By any person, from the date judgment is pronounced or probation granted or, in the case of a report arising out of a previous arrest, from the date the subsequent accusatory pleading is filed, to and including 60 days from the date judgment is pronounced or probation is granted, whichever is earlier."
A reporter should bring a copy of the new criminal complaint or even a news clipping about it to give to the clerk at the court for a previous case to show a new charge has been filed against the person and hence an old probation report should be made public again.
Some courts, such as in Alameda County, also have been challenging the right to access probation reports.
Similar reports, sometimes called sentencing or pre-sentencing reports, are filed for people found guilty of misdemeanor crimes and for people found guilty in federal court of federal crimes.
Sample Probation Reports: