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California Probation Laws

California Probation Laws

The population of Californians who are in the state’s adult supervised probation system is larger than the population of the other three forms of correctional supervision, jail, prison, and parole, combined. In some cases, a judge will offer an offender the option of probation. Many people opt for probation, finding it preferable to serving time in jail or prison. While probation allows a person to be released from physical custody, there are many restrictions placed on a person on probation, and serious consequences for people who violate the terms of their probation.

Probation Can Be Either Formal or Informal

In some situations, a probation might be informal. This is the case with less serious offenses, such as when an individual has committed a misdemeanor. A person placed on informal probation will not be required to see a probation officer. Informal probation means a person must not violate any laws during the course of their probation. If you violate the terms of your informal probation, you can be faced with a revocation of your probation, harsher probations terms, or other consequences, depending on the violation.

Formal probation is granted in cases of more serious crimes, such as felonies. Under formal probations terms, the individual must register with the Adult Probation Department and will be assigned a probation officer, whom he or she will have to report to throughout the duration of the probationary period. In some cases, probationary terms might dictate that the individual must refrain from using illicit drugs or alcohol, and can require that the individual attend classes to help manage an addiction, substance abuse, or anger management issue. Your probationary status can impact your ability to own a firearm and can eliminate your right to refuse a search of your home, a search of your person, or to refuse to submit to a drug test. This means that law enforcement officers can freely perform searches on you and your property that would, under other circumstances, require a warrant. Violating the terms of your formal probation can result in you being required to serve the duration of your sentence.

Formal probation related to felony convictions also often results in a full ban on legally owning firearms and or weapons for the rest of your life. Travel restrictions are often imposed as well. This could be losing the ability to leave your primary County of residence as well as out of state travel during the probation term. Furthermore, with respect to international travel, Countries such as Canada will prevent convicted criminals from entering their borders without special forms, applications or permissions. These international restrictions may last longer than the probation term and can vary from country to country.

What Are Some Common Probation Violations?

In addition to committing another crime during probation, it is possible to violate probation by something as simple as missing a court date or failing to report to your probation officer. Refusing a drug test, or leaving the state without permission from the assigned probation officer are additional ways a person might violate probation.

Do I Have to Take Probation?

Probation is offered as an alternative to serving time in prison or jail. The obvious benefit is the ability to avoid being held in jail or prison. Of course, sometimes a person might realize that their sentence would include only a very short amount of time in jail as opposed to a much longer probation period. It is possible to opt for jail time over probation.

How Long is Probation?

Probation periods in California are typically three years. In some cases, a person might be able to reduce their probationary period by completing the requirements they were meant to complete, and by maintaining good and lawful behavior for a portion of the probationary period.

Call Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP for Your Free Probation Violation Consultation

If you are accused of committing a criminal offense, or of violating the terms of your probation, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. The experienced criminal law attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP are ready to protect your rights. Call us today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation.


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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.