What Does It Mean to Be on Formal or Informal (Summary) Probation in California? STAFF PICK

Posted almost 5 years ago. Applies to California, 4 helpful votes



Types of Probation

After someone is convicted of a crime, with the exception of infractions or traffic violations which can only result in paying a fine, the judge will place the defendant on probation. However, in some rare instances, no probation is granted and simply jail time is imposed. Usually, the length of time on probation will range from three to five years and can be either "Formal Probation" (supervised by a Probation Officer) or "Summary Probation" (informal and not supervised).


Terms of Probation

Being placed on probation is like a formal agreement between the defendant and the sentencing judge that, instead of being sent to jail for the maximum sentence, the probationer will comply with the orders of the court and complete certain obligations to the court in a timely way. Common probation terms include: fines, jail time at the local county jail, community service or work program, drug or alcohol programs, drug testing, future court dates to file progress reports or certificates of completion, etc.


Notice of Possible Probation Violation -- Arrest Warrants

If a probationer does comply with a term of probation a probation violation can occur. The court may feel that the probationer may not have lived up to the agreement, by not doing something that was ordered by the judge. If so, the court is notified and a Bench Warrant or other notice will be issued requiring the appearance of the probationer before the judge to answer why something may not have been done. If you or someone close to you receives such a notice, or you have heard that there is a warrant for your arrest in Southern California, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney right away. A probation violation frequently results in jail or prison time. However, you may have a good reason for not complying with a probation condition or your probation could be modified to delete the requirement.


Probation Violation Hearing

If probation may have been violated, a hearing is usually held in front of the same judge who placed the probationer on probation. It is absolutely critical that the probationer not miss this important court date. Otherwise, another warrant of arrest will be issued and it is less likely that the court will lean toward giving the probationer a second chance if the probationer does not even show up for his or her probation violation hearing. At that hearing your probation violation lawyer can present to the court any mitigating circumstances that would explain the failure to appear or the delay in complying with the judge's earlier court orders. The judge will determine if a violation has actually occurred but the amount of proof required to prove a violation is much less than a criminal trial. The judge only has to lean toward finding that it is likely there is a probation violation by a "preponderance of evidence", (or more than fifty percent proof).


Probation Violation Penalties

In addition to the original sentence, the court may impose additional penalties upon a probationer. These additional penalties, if any, will often depend upon severity of the conduct that resulted in the notification of the court of a possible probation violation. If the court finds that the probationer has a new arrest, especially if that arrest is for the same or similar conduct, or if the probationer has failed to comply with an order of the court, the court may impose more severe penalties, including whatever jail time remains available, or additional: community service, longer drug/alcohol programs, more frequent court progress reports, etc. But a probation violation lawyer can help tremendously.


What Can Be Done?

Probation violation lawyers know how sometimes you may just get behind. You may need someone to help make a presentation to the court. It is likely that you have reasons that might be hard for you to explain on your own to the judge. Consider retaining Probation violation lawyers who know the law and the courts to help you stay out of jail and successfully complete probation.

Additional Resources

California Probation Violation Lawyers

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