Probation is one of the most common alternatives to incarceration and one of the most common sentences for both felonies and misdemeanors in California. But while people are usually familiar with this term, many do not know what this sentence entails and how the brief and formal test differ. This overview provides a simple primer, but if you have further questions, contact an attorney.
What is the test?
Probation is an alternative to incarceration that allows offenders to be released from prison (or avoid serving time altogether) as long as they follow certain rules. Probation allows a judge to sentence a defendant to up to one year in prison for felonies and certain misdemeanors. A state prison sentence means the judge will deny probation for a felony.
How strict the rules are, how long probation will last, and how many rules you will need to follow will depend in part on the type of probation you are sentenced to.
What are the two types of probation in California?
California has two levels of probation, one for those convicted of misdemeanors and one for those found guilty of felonies. Probation is voluntary, and while most people prefer it to prison, some prefer to serve their sentence behind bars and then have complete freedom upon release.
Summary, sometimes called “informal,” probation is generally given for misdemeanor crimes. It is less restrictive because it only requires you to follow a few basic rules and avoid further legal problems.
Formal probation is reserved for criminal convictions, because it involves a more stringent set of rules, including scheduled visits with a probation officer and regular drug and alcohol testing. People on formal probation may also be required to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor their location.
What is summary testing under California law?
Summary probation is for offenders who have been convicted of a misdemeanor-level offense. In some cases, if the crime is wavering, meaning it could be a felony or a misdemeanor, your attorney can arrange for you to serve summary probation instead of formal probation by reducing the charges to a misdemeanor. The main difference between summary and formal testing is that the former has less stringent restrictions.
During your probation, you will not have to check in with your probation officer on a regular basis, although your progress will be monitored from time to time to make sure you are following the rules of your release. Conditions of summary probation vary greatly from case to case and may include paying restitution to the victim, completing community service, attending substance abuse programs, etc. One of the only universal rules of informal surveillance is that you cannot be arrested or charged with a crime. Another crime, although violations usually do not count.
What is the official test in California?
Formal testing is more serious and rigorous than informal testing and requires you to register with probation within days of your release from jail or prison. A probation officer will then be appointed and you will be asked to check in with them at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the entire term of your agreement. Generally, these appointments will be once a week when you are first released and then become less frequent over time.
The details of your agreement will depend on your crime, criminal history, and more. For example, if you are convicted of bodily injury to your spouse or cohabitant, which is the most serious domestic violence charge, you may be required to undergo an anger management program, comply with your partner’s restraining order, pay restitution to the victim, and turn everyone in. of your firearms and more. Sometimes, those sentenced under this program must wear a GPS tracking device or face travel restrictions. Moving out of county requires court approval.
In addition, anyone serving a period of formal probation can have their vehicles, body, home, or property searched without a warrant at any time. They may also be asked to take a drug or alcohol test at any time.
How long does the test last?
Typically, the brief test lasts only one year, while the formal test lasts two years. Whether the case involves a misdemeanor or a felony, the judge can ask the defendant to serve some time in prison and then serve the remainder of his sentence outside of prison. If someone is sentenced to probation, the maximum prison term is one year, regardless of whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor — although this maximum prison time is typically reserved for those convicted of serious felonies.
There are exceptions when the test may last longer than the standard duration of one or two years. These include:
- The Penal Code sets a unique probation period – for example, probation for drunk driving lasts between 3 and 5 years
- Financial crimes involving more than $25,000 – Probation for these crimes usually lasts 3 years
- The crime was a violent felony
What is the difference between probation and parole?
Probation and parole are very similar, which is why many people confuse them. Both allow a person convicted of a crime to stay out of prison as long as he follows the rules of their program. The difference is that probation is granted as part of a criminal sentence when the individual was originally convicted, whereas parole is granted through a hearing with the California Parole Board. Probation allows individuals to serve part or all of their sentence outside of jail or prison, while parole allows a person sentenced to prison to be released early.
What happens if you violate the terms of your probation?
Because probation is a conditional release from prison, if you violate the terms of your agreement, you could end up behind bars. You can then be sentenced to up to the maximum term for the offence. If you are accused of violating your probation, you can defend yourself at a hearing. Unfortunately, because this is a hearing and not a trial, you are not presumed innocent, and you are not offered the option of hiring an attorney if you cannot afford one, although you can choose to be represented by an attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime that could result in you being placed on probation, criminal defense attorney Peter M. Lees can help you. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.