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Probation in California

By: the California Courts Self-Help Center

Probation Department Will Make Recommendations

The probation department makes recommendations to the judge about how to sentence the defendant.

Their recommendations may include:

  • Prison or jail time
  • Programs to help the defendant take responsibility for the violence
  • Restricted contact between the defendant and the victim

Presentence Report

In all felony cases, and in some misdemeanor cases, the probation department writes a presentence report for the court.

The report describes the crime and the defendant's personal history and criminal record. It includes the defendant's statement and the victim's views about the crime.

The victim's statement is very important. It may affect the probation officer's recommendations and the judge's orders.

The probation officer (also called a "PO") may talk to the victim about the injuries and emotional harm caused by the violence.

Probation Will Notify the Victim About the Sentencing Hearing

After completing the presentence report, the probation department will tell the victim the date when the judge will sentence the defendant.

They will tell the victim about his or her right to go to court and speak to the judge in person or in writing.

The victim can also ask the judge to order the defendant to pay for expenses or losses caused by the violence.


The minimum sentence for anyone convicted of certain crimes against his or her partner is:

  • 3 years of probation;
  • A criminal protective order to protect the victim from further acts of violence;
  • Payment of medical expenses, property damage, or lost wages to the victim; and
  • Public service and fines.

Jail Alternative Programs

Some counties let defendants serve their jail time by working in an alternative program. These programs allow the inmates to live or work in the community while serving their jail sentences.

Court Probation

If the defendant is put on court probation, the court will monitor the defendant's compliance with the court orders.

Formal Probation

If the defendant is put on formal probation, a probation officer (or "PO") is assigned to supervise the defendant.The PO's job is to provide protection for the victim and to enforce the court order. Victims can speak directly with the PO assigned to the defendant.

Batterer Intervention Programs

A defendant must go to a 1-year batterer intervention program. This program doesn't guarantee that the defendant will never be violent or abusive again. The program tries to teach the defendant how to stop the violence.Victims aren't allowed to participate in the program with the defendant. But a victim can ask for information about the program and the defendant's participation.

Contact With the Defendant During Probation

The judge can also make an order restricting the defendant's contact with the victim. Usually the judge makes one of the following "no-contact" orders:

  • No harassing, annoying, or striking the victim;
  • No contact at all; or
  • No contact without the approval of the probation department.

Other Probation Conditions

The defendant may be ordered to:

  • Go to substance abuse counseling,
  • Submit to searches without a warrant,
  • Submit to testing,
  • Participate in parenting classes, and
  • Not own or have any weapons.

Anyone convicted of a felony can't own or have a firearm-ever.

Changes in Probation

The victim has the right to be told about any changes in the defendant's probation.

Violation of Probation

A judge, not a jury, decides if the defendant has violated probation.

If the defendant disobeys the conditions of probation, the judge can order more jail time and other probation conditions.

In felony cases, the judge can order the defendant to serve time in state prison.