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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What Is Formal Probation in California?

When someone is arrested and convicted of a crime, this could be either under the misdemeanor or the felony umbrella. The focus of today will be a bit more on the latter, as it will typically be the catalyst for formal or felony probation.


Felonies mean that the defendant is looking at potential time in a state prison. Be that as it may, a jail or prison sentence doesn't necessarily have to happen. For example, some of these cases see defendants commit non-violent crimes while having a clean record.


In such instances, a court may grant probation in this form. This kind of probation is meant to allow eligible candidates with felony convictions to serve their sentence in whole or part without being confined to the prison system.


There will be a probation officer assigned to the matter who, on behalf of the probation department, will supervise the defendant.


Note that there isn't a system that can tell when a prison term is on the table and when someone will probation. The judge, who has full autonomy to make this decision, will use several criteria to determine the outcome, such as what kind of crime was committed and what the person's unique situation is.


How Are Formal and Informal Probation Different?


Informal probation may also be called court probation or summary probation. The most glaring difference is that this will typically not be an option for a convicted felon. There will usually be a misdemeanor matter at hand for the judge to choose to go this route.


Below, there will be a look at some of the rules that need to be adhered to while felony probation is active. Informal probation is a lot less stringent, and it does not even feature an assigned probation officer for supervision.


Instead, probationers will report directly to the court, and this will usually only be when they are submitting their proof of requirement completion, moving to a new address, or being brought to face the court after having been arrested. Goss Law can also explain how to get off probation early in California.


How Long Does Felony Probation Last?

How Long Does Felony Probation Last?


For the most part, felony probation will be about five years. Be that as it may, variations can apply. Note as well that the court may see it fit to grant an early termination of probation in cases where the defendant has completed their obligations and has given a good reason for it to happen.


Of course, this is all up to the discretion of the judge, who is simply trying to ensure that justice is being served by making such a call.


There may also be a scenario that is known as a "wobbler" offense. Under California law, this will speak to those crimes that could be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. When this happens, the judge may be inclined, after a set time, to reduce the matter to a misdemeanor. This will see the probation period being reduced to align with such charges.


What Kinds of Stipulations Must a Defendant Adhere to?


Defendants must accept a grant of felony probation in California, which comes with a set of conditions. Note that not every one will apply to every case. This is dependent on the offense that the person is being convicted for as well as considerations, such as what kind of prior criminal history is present.


Again, the court can exercise its discretion here, so long as whatever is decided is in line with driving the defendant to rehabilitation. Some of the common conditions that come with these matters are:


  1. Performing community service

  2. Submitting to alcohol or drug testing

  3. Paying fines and restitution

  4. Agreeing not to violate any laws during the time of the probation

  5. Taking part in counseling initiatives, such as group therapy

  6. Submit to searches by either the police or probation officers


Note that formal probation will often include a requirement to either do community labor days, serve time in a county jail, or both. When there is jail time involved, it is a probationary sentence and not a custodial one.


What Happens When There Is a Violation?


A convicted person may find themself in a position where they do not abide by the conditions that were set out for the probation. The most severe of these is not obeying all laws during the period.


Defendants do have the right to litigation, which can include documentation reviews, live testimonies, etc. Be that as it may, this is still a matter in which the judge is afforded the power to treat the matter as is deemed to be fit.


Since these are felony cases, what will often happen is that the case is treated as it would have been in the absence of the probation, with the violating person being made to serve time in a California state prison.


Are There Costs Associated with Formal Probation?


Restitution was mentioned earlier, which is what would be paid over to victims in a criminal case by the person who was convicted. Other costs come with formal probation. For example, there is a monthly probation fee that must be paid. It is used to pay the officer who provides supervision.


Optionally, there may be an ankle monitor or drug testing needed. If so, the fee will cover these expenses too.


How Does an Attorney Help with a Felony Arrest?

How Does an Attorney Help with a Felony Arrest?


From the time of arrest, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer to provide assistance. After all, this is a legal professional who is acutely familiar with the system, which means that proper steps can be taken to increase the likelihood of avoiding a conviction.


Even if a conviction is handed down, a Sacramento probation violation lawyer can help to make a plea bargain for probation. Additionally, the attorney may also help to get an early termination order.


Schedule a Consultation Today with an Expert California Criminal Defense Lawyer!


Being convicted of a felony can have a lot of far-reaching implications. Your best bet to either walk free or to get the lightest sentence possible will require expertise, such as that which the team at Goss Law possesses. Schedule your consultation today!

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