Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys

Experienced and Dedicated Advocates on Your Behalf

In the large majority of criminal cases, prosecutors require that the accused be placed on probation. Because it has no immediate effect at the time of sentencing however, many overlook its importance and some don’t even know they are on it. As a result, individuals can end up violating their probation accidentally in one way or another, which can have serious consequences.

How Probation Works

To avoid overcrowding and reduce costs, counties sometimes offer probation with a number of other conditions and guidelines attached. There are two types of probation: summary and formal.

Summary probation is the more lenient of the two and generally imposed in misdemeanors. It comes with no requirement to check in with a probation officer or the court, no restrictions on travel and carries smaller fees. By contrast, formal probation requires the accused to check in with a probation officer, prevents travel outside the county or state without permission, has higher fines and fees and usually carries harsher penalties should a violation occur. Formal probation is more common in felony matters. Both summary and formal probation can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years.

How Probation is Violated and its Consequences

Whenever probation is instituted it is essentially used as a check on future behavior. It is the court’s way of giving someone a second chance by setting aside any jail time, on the condition that they follow the terms of their probation. For example, if you have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may receive 3 years of summary probation instead of jail time on the condition that you attend alcohol education classes regularly, do not drive with any alcohol in your system whatsoever, and you stay away from bars or establishments where alcohol is served after a certain time of night, among other things. Not adhering to any of these conditions, even once, can be considered a violation of probation and force you back into court to deal with your case all over again.

The Broad Discretion of Judges

The danger of violating probation, even in a “small” way, is that it jeopardizes the deal you originally made and your entire case opens up again, making jail time possible again. Furthermore, as a practical matter, most initial resolutions are negotiated with a district attorney. But when probation has been violated, individuals usually find themselves facing a judge who has very broad discretion in dealing with probation violations. Especially if the violation is more serious and happens more than once, any deal you may have negotiated previously could become irrelevant and, depending on the temperament of the judge, a much harsher sentence is a very real possibility.

It is unfortunate to negotiate a very favorable result, only to face a much harsher sentence later for a minor probation violation. If you are facing a potential probation violation, call us at (213) 542-0748 to get ahead of the problem and see what you can do to preserve as much of your original deal as possible.