Even after you have been convicted of a crime, the court may grant you probation, or a suspended sentence, that allows you to leave prison early. Even though probation means you get to leave prison, you may still have to abide by strict rules and regulations that heavily impact how you live your day-to-day life.
With misdemeanor charges, you will only receive informal, or summary, probation, which will have very few major restrictions, if any. However, if you are released on a felony charge, you may have to abide by formal probation, which can include meeting with a probation officer regularly, costly fees, and even being limited on where you can travel.
The Rules of Felony Probation
Probation is essentially a contract between you and the State of California. With this contract, the court agrees to release you from prison early, and, in turn, you must follow certain rules. Once you are released on formal probation, you will be required to meet with a probation officer to ensure that you are fulfilling this contract.
Formal probation can vary depending on the nature of your case, what charges you were convicted of, and even the discretion of your probation officer. However, common rules include:
- Meeting with a probation officer multiple times a month
- Paying for supervision
- Getting a job – or, at least, applying for employment
- Attending counseling, such as anger management
- Attending drug or alcohol rehabilitation
- Being unable to leave the state without approval from your probation officer
- Having your home searched without a warrant
- Being unable to initiate contact with a gang under the “no gang contact” rules
It is important to note that probation is different from parole. Typically, you are assigned probation during your criminal trial and it is a part of your sentence. With parole, you must apply while in prison and get approved by the parole board. Parole can be far stricter when compared to probation, but it is still one method to reduce your sentence.
How Courts Assign Probation
Probation is available for several different crimes, but it is heavily regulated in felony cases. The court will look at several factors before determining if you are eligible for probation. Factors that can influence its decision include:
- Your criminal record
- The nature of the crime
- Whether or not the victim suffered financial losses or injuries
- If a weapon was involved
- If your charges constituted a hate crime
- If you have any dependents
- If you agree to the terms of probation
What If I Violated Probation?
Probation violations can have severe negative consequences on your case. Probation is considered a privilege by the California criminal justice system and an alternative to serving a long prison sentence, which could be decades in a felony case. If you failed to meet with your probation officer, are charged with another crime, or otherwise break the rules of your probation, you could be:
- Sent back to prison to serve out the remainder of your sentence
- Have your probation extended
- Be required to attend counseling
- Have to follow additional rules
Bottom line, you should do everything in your power to follow the rules of your probation. The courts do not take kindly to repeat offenders or probation violations and can levy harsh judgments against you.
If you are charged with a crime in Orange County, you should work with a skilled attorney who can advocate for the lightest possible sentence, which may include formal probation or other alternative sentences. At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our Orange County criminal defense lawyer has a wealth of experience defending clients and having their charges reduced or dismissed. While probation may be the best option for you, we may be able to get your charges dropped altogether. To find out how, call our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to schedule a free case evaluation.