California Probation: Avoiding Prison the Smart Way

Rather than imposing a jail sentence, a judge can instead sentence you to probation. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t serve the higher interests of natural justice to put a person behind bars. As such, fairness to the convicted can dictate that probation be granted instead.

Probation is an alternative to jail or prison time. It’s normally granted for minor offenses and generally only given to first offenders who, despite being found guilty, are allowed to serve a sentence out of incarceration.

Normally such a sentence is accompanied by conditions that the sentencing official deems reasonable and necessary considering the person of the offender, surrounding circumstances, and the nature of the offense.

Master the Rare Differences

There are two kinds of California probation: summary/misdemeanor probation and felony probation. As the name implies, these two types are reserved for felonies and misdemeanors, respectively.

In the latter case, the period of probation can last for up to five years. Now, the most important aspect of probation deals with the conditions. Under normal circumstances, you’d normally be unsupervised.

However, it’s possible that your probation may be unsupervised, in which case you may be required to pay restitution, perform community labor, or attend voluntary counseling sessions. But like all conditions that rest upon the occurrence of an event, failure to respect the conditions of probation will result in you being sent straight to prison.

What Do I Need to  Do in Order to Get Probation

Probation is granted on the judge’s own accord. More than anything, it is an exercise in discretion and the result of the judge’s own leniency. In many cases, probation forms part of a plea agreement, whereby you give crucial evidence in exchange for a lighter sentence.

However, it is generally granted during sentencing. It is at this juncture that, when your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor make their closing arguments, that your legal representative can plead in your favor. Your chances of getting probation will increase if you show remorse and don’t have a criminal record.

What Other Conditions Can I Expect?

As mentioned, probation is normally granted subject to conditions which, if violated, will result in the probation being withdrawn and replaced by imprisonment. Apart from community service, the payment of restitution and counseling, it is typical for judges to impose any of the following requirements:

  • A restraining order
  • A fine or penalty
  • Compulsory attendance of group therapy
  • Regular supervision
  • Restriction of movement (i.e., house arrest)
  • The condition that you seek gainful employment
  • Regular drug testing

Alteration of Conditions of Probation

Again, the judge is at liberty to modify the terms of the probation. This is normally the case in cases of domestic violence and driving under the influence (DUI). On the other hand, probation can be extended, or it can be converted to imprisonment.

If you wish for a favorable probation adjustment, you have to make the best of a bad situation by respecting the conditions imposed. Otherwise, probation is a good thing under the circumstances of a guilty verdict.