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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What Is Informal Probation in California?

Informal probation is usually what will be assigned to eligible defendants in California when the crime that was committed is a misdemeanor. Note that there may be exceptions to the rule, such as cases where the matter could be a felony too.


This is called a "wobble offense," and even in cases where the treatment is that of a felony, it could be downgraded later. When this happens, the probation or whatever other punishment is applied will reflect what is appropriate for less serious offenses.


Informal probation is sometimes called court probation or summary probation. On the other hand, formal probation may be called felony probation or supervised probation.


How Are Formal and Informal Probation Different?


First, there is the length. While it can vary, informal or summary probation will usually be up to two years, with felony probation running as long as five years.


There is no supervision under informal rules, but the formal variant will typically run under the supervision of a probation officer to whom the defendant must report.


Note that the felony version requires a fee to be paid that is used to compensate the supervising officer and to cover drug tests or an ankle monitor, if necessary. There may be booking fees under the informal umbrella, but there is no money being collected to pay an officer.


Informal probation tends to come with no travel restrictions, though there may be exceptions. On the other hand, those who are dealing with formal probation will typically have to get permission from the assigned supervisor.


Who Will Usually Get Informal Probation?

Who Will Usually Get Informal Probation?


Most first-time defendants in California who face charges that are low-level and non-violent are likely to get probation instead of jail time, though this depends on the discretion of the judge.


Is It Possible to Get Informal DUI Probation Instead of a Jail Sentence?


When there is an experienced criminal defense lawyer representing a client, they will do their best to try to get the lowest class of punishment possible. For example, a good attorney will typically attempt to get prosecutors to agree to a plea bargain. They can also help with how to get off probation early in California.


In other cases, it is possible to persuade the judge to grant probation for misdemeanor DUI offenses. Note as well that many probation sentences include a suspended jail sentence for up to a year.


This means that simply being on probation does not remove the possibility of time behind bars. If the probation should be violated, the judge reserves the right to lift the sentence suspension and have the time served.


What Kinds of Conditions Are Typical of Summary Probation?


The terms established will usually be the evaluation point of a probation violation taking place. Normally, proceedings will see the formal version having a list of very serious conditions that must be adhered to. While the informal variant may not have that kind of list, there are still stipulations that will be laid out, which must not be ignored. Here are some of the more common ones to note:


  1. Victim restitution, court costs, booking fees, and fines must be paid as directed

  2. Gainful employment must be retained

  3. Any firearms owned must be surrendered

  4. Attend mandatory substance abuse counseling

  5. Abstain from alcohol, which is especially important if the probation was granted because there were no prior DUI convictions

  6. Complete community service

  7. Take specific actions such as donating $500 to a battered women's shelter, or completing a batterer's treatment program if domestic violence is at play


Bear in mind that not every condition will apply to every convicted person. The decision will be made based on the specifics of the case.


Are Probation Directives Final Under California Law?


Even after a judge decides that a defendant will be placed on probation and indicates what the timeline will look like, this is not necessarily final. Sure, there will be many situations where convicted persons will go through the process as expected. However, this is not always the case.


Sometimes it is beneficial for the defendant, while in other cases, it is quite the opposite. California law gives judges the right to make changes to probation motions. This means that, provided there is good reason, the timeline could be removed, or extended, or the probation could be done away with for jail time.


Note that while the judge has this discretion and power, the request to have the probation modified can be initiated by the defendant or the prosecutor as well.


How Does Early Termination Work?

How Does Early Termination Work?


Sometimes, whatever the terms of the probation are get completed ahead of schedule. Additionally, the convicted person has demonstrated traits of reform without any violations being recorded.


A professional criminal lawyer in California will know how to use this to their client's advantage. This means that the probation can end months earlier than projected, allowing probationers to get back to their lives since they were being cooperative and fully compliant. They can also explain what summary probation in California is.


Is Employment Affected When the Defendant Is Granted Informal Probation?


If there is no conviction for an offense, California law prevents employers from asking about the corresponding arrests. However, being on probation means that the conviction took place, so that kind of information must be disclosed when requested.


Be that as it may, there is a silver lining here, and it requires the assistance of an expert Sacramento probation violation attorney. When probation is completed successfully, it is possible to file a petition for the conviction to be expunged from the defendant's criminal record.


Should this be successful, it simply means that there would no longer be a need to divulge any of this information to a potential employer, even when asked.


What Happens When Unsupervised Probation Is Violated?


When the probation is violated by the convicted party, a revocation hearing will be held. This will allow an opportunity for an explanation to be put forward, or for the violation to be denied altogether.


Evidence will be reviewed, and the probation will either be reinstated as is, modified, or revoked (with the defendant sent to jail).


Schedule a Consultation with an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney in California Today!


Are you facing a misdemeanor conviction? You need a qualified and passionate criminal defense lawyer on your side. Schedule a consultation today with Goss Law!

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