How Probation Works (Informal vs. Formal) STAFF PICK

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

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Informal/Summary Court Probation

If you are placed on Summary/Informal Probation, you don't report to a Probation Officer instead you are required to complete the specific terms of the sentencing and stay out of trouble with no new crimes. During informal probation, the defendant may be expected to attend counseling, perform community service, complete physical labor, undergo drug testing. The probationary time period is usually three years but can be as short as 6 months and as long as five years or more depending on the nature and number of charges.

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Formal Probation

If you are placed on Formal Probation, you will be assigned and ordered to meet a probation officer who will monitor you once a month. During formal probation the defendant may be expected to attend counseling, perform community service, complete physical labor, undergo drug testing. The probationary time period is usually three years but can be as short as 6 months and as long as five years or more depending on the nature and number of charges.

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Probation Violations

If a defendant breaks any of the rules imposed upon him or her during the probationary period, his or her probation can be revoked and jail or prison time could be required. Probation violations include failure to pay fines or restitution, to complete rehabilitation or community service, to appear in court, to stay away from certain persons, locations or known criminal, or failing to report to your probation officer, or possessing illegal drugs, guns, committing new crimes, or even being arrested. The violation of probation depends on how serious the violation is. If the violation is not serious, chances are the adult or juvenile defendant will be given a second chance and will be allowed to remain on probation under the same terms and conditions. If a more serious violation occurs, then there will likely be a violation of probation with some consequences. Factors considered are the seriousness and nature of the violation and the number of previous violations.

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Contested Probation Violation Hearing

If a probation violation occurs, the adult or juvenile defendant could be arrested on a warrant or ordered to court, by means of official mail notification, for a probation violation hearing. At the probation violation hearing, the Prosecutor must prove the adult or juvenile defendant violated probation. If the defendant is found guilty of the probation violation, the court may impose one of several punishments. Consequences include a jail or prison sentence, extension or addition of probation terms, revocation or reinstatement with same or different terms and conditions, rehabilitation, counseling, treatment program. Your attorney will gather character, employment, or reference letters to present at the hearing, establish communication with the probation department, locate and interview defense witnesses, and negotiate alternatives to jail.

Additional Resources

The Tiemann Law Firm

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