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What is Informal Probation?

Informal probation is usually granted to offenders who do not commit violent or drug-related crimes that regularly lasts for 1-3 years but can result in a 5-year sentence. If you are lucky enough to receive informal probation in California, you are likely required to adhere to the following rules:

  1. Follow all federal, state, or local laws

  2. Complete all community service hours if you have received any

  3. Pay all court fees

  4. Report to a judge about your progress

What is Formal Probation?

On the other hand, formal probation, which is also called felony probation, is often granted to offenders who commit felonies and lasts for 3-5 years. The rules of formal probation are significantly stricter than the rules of informal probation. Offenders, who have been sentenced to formal probation, usually have to follow these rules:

  1. Register with the Adult Probation Department and meet with their assigned probation officer as many times as required

  2. Follow all federal, state or local laws

  3. Attend individual or group therapy sessions

  4. Pay all required court fees, such as restitution and fines

  5. Complete all community service hours as required

  6. Report to a Probation Officer as required

  7. Do not contact or associated with any other criminal offenders or gang members

  8. Seek an employment, maintain a steady job and report to a probation officer about any employment changes within 72 hours

  9. Undergo drug testing if required

  10. Prohibit to use, sell, o or possess alcohol or illegal drugs

  11. Submit to searches of your residence, car , and personal items at any time

Judges may use wide discretion when they decide on reasonable and appropriate probation conditions for a particular offender. In addition, special conditions of probation may apply to offenders who commit specific crimes such as sexual offenses, domestic abuse crimes, white-collar crimes, a, and others.

What is the difference between Formal and Informal Probation?

There are quite a few differences between formal probation and informal probation. For instance, if you were granted formal probation, you are required to register with the Adult Probation Department and have a probation officer, who will supervise you, assigned to you by the Department. Meantime, informal probation does not require you to register with the Adult Probation Department or be under the supervision of a probation officer. Moreover, under the terms of informal probation you are not required to report to a probation officer. Instead of reporting to a probation officer, offenders on informal probation have to occasionally appear before a judge and report to him or her on their probation progress. Finally, as already mentioned above, informal probation is granted for non-violent misdemeanors, while offenders who commit felonies and drug-related crimes usually qualify for formal probation.

What happens if you violate your probation terms?

Probation is not a right, but rather a privilege and more lenient alternative to a prison or jail time. If you violate your formal or informal probation terms, you will have to attend a California probation violation court hearing and the judge might decide to:

  1. Revoke your probation and send you to a jail or prison to serve the remaining years of your sentence

  2. Modify the terms of your probation to make them harsher

  3. Reinstate your probation without modifying your current terms and conditions

Regardless of whether you are on formal or informal, speaking with an experienced probation violation attorney following any police contact could help limit the damage. Probation terms and conditions under California law are often very strict and burdensome, which result in the high percentage of California offenders violating their probation terms. According to Legislative Analyst’s Office study Achieving Better Outcomes for Adult Probation in 2009, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had about 40% of prison admissions in 2008 due to probation revocations. Moreover, California has 10% lower rate of successful probation completion than other states in the country.

What are the most common violations of formal or informal probation?

The most common probation violation of both types of probation in California include:

  1. Committing a new crime

  2. The refusal to take a drug test or failing a drug test if such a test was required under the terms of probation

  3. Failure to appear before a judge for a particular court date required under probation terms

  4. Failure to pay a required restitution or fine but under the condition of being able to pay such a fine or restitution

  5. Failure to report on your probation progress to your assigned probation officer

  6. Using, selling, , or possessing illegal substances

  7. Leaving the state without getting the prior permission from your probation officer

Please note that if you violate the terms of probation listed above, you may be arrested, o,r a California arrest warrant may be issued for your arrest.

What are your rights at a probation revocation hearing?

Offenders who violate their probation terms in California have many of the same rights as defendants in criminal trial. These rights include:

  1. The right to attorney representation

  2. The right to present evidences, call,, or subpoena witnesses

  3. Receive the detailed summary of the claimed violations in a written form

  4. The right to have a neutral judge to hear your case

  5. The right to defend yourself and provide your own testimony on your behalf

  6. The right to have all evidence against you to be disclosed to you

  7. To use hearsay evidence for your defense

However, only a judge may preside over your probation revocation hearing – a jury cannot be requested to hear your probation violation case. Furthermore, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you are guilty of violating your probation terms “beyond a reasonable doubt” and only needs to prove that you are more likely guilty than not.

What factors determine the outcome of a probation revocation hearing?

If it is found that you have violated your probation, a judge will determine your sentence based on the following factors:

  1. The seriousness and severity of your violation

  2. Your criminal history and whether you are a “first-time” or “repeat” offender

  3. Sentence recommendation by your probation officer

  4. When you violated your probation: your sentence might depend on whether you violated your probation at the beginning of your probation term or at the end of it

Even if a judge has determined that you have violated your probation, an experienced California criminal defense attorney may help to convince the judge to modify your probation instead of revoking it.

Violation of Probation

Riverside and San Bernardino Probation Attorney

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