You may have been similarly frustrated as the reporter I overheard at the court clerk’s office. He was trying to convince a court clerk that a probation report was a public record. He was probably right but he didn’t have the Penal Code section in print to back up his claim. Here’s the skinny. Probation Officer Reports on a currently adjudicated case are public records for 60 days after the judgment is pronounced. [Penal Code 1203.05] If the defendant is subsequently charged with another offense, the prior probation report becomes a public record. It’s all in California Penal Code 1203.05.
The California First Amendment Project, Pocket Guide to Access to Courts and Court Records, addresses the code but doesn’t refer to any court cases that may have weighted in on the law.
And the text of PC 1203.05:
1203.05. 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.
(b) By any person, at any time, by order of the court, upon filing a petition therefor by the person.
(c) By the general public, if the court upon its own motion orders that a report or reports shall be open or that the contents of the report or reports shall be disclosed.
(d) By any person authorized or required by law to inspect or receive copies of the report.
(e) By the district attorney of the county at any time.
(f) By the subject of the report at any time.
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In Utah, the offender’s presentence report is not a public record, pursuant to the Government Records Access Management Act and Utah Code Section 77-18-1 (1953, as amended). Section 77-18-1 states in pertinent part:
(14) Presentence investigation reports are classified protected in accordance with Title 63G, Chapter 2, Government Records Access and Management Act. Notwithstanding Sections 63G-2-403 and 63G-2-404, the State Records Committee may not order the disclosure of a presentence investigation report. Except for disclosure at the time of sentencing pursuant to this section, the department may disclose the present investigation only when:
(a) ordered by the court pursuant to Subsection 63G-2-202(7);
(b) requested by a law enforcement agency or other agency approved by the department for purposes of supervision, confinement, and treatment of the offender;
(c) requested by the Board of Pardons and Parole;
(d) requested by the subject of the presentence investigation report or the subject’s authorized representative; or
(e) requested by the victim of the crime discussed in the presentence investigation report or the victim’s authorized representative, provided that the disclosure to the victim shall include only information relating to statements or materials provided by the victim, to the circumstances of the crime including statements by the defendant, or to the impact of the crime on the victim or the victim’s household.
Despite the above, I’ve seen time and time again where the court forgets to seal the presentence report. I’ve found them sitting loosely in the court files or in a manila envelope in the file. You probably won’t get a copy of it if you asked, but reading it and taking good notes is another thing.