If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in California and sentenced to probation, you may feel as though you have won just by avoiding a jail sentence. While this is very true (jail sentences are reserved for much more serious cases and criminals who may pose a risk to society), probation does not mean you are off the hook. There are many terms associated with probation that does affect the way you live and exercise your rights and freedoms.
While we all have the same freedoms outlined in the constitution, breaking laws has an effect on those rights and prevents you from acting according to your will without legal consequences. If you serve your probationary term completely and successfully, you may be eligible for expungement and to return to your “normal” everyday life. However, violating your probation order may result in a harsher sentence or even time in jail.
How long does probation last?
Misdemeanor probation may last as little as one year and at most five, depending on the details of your criminal charges and the final outcome of your case. Though some probationary sentences do involve time in county jail, most misdemeanors call for fines, community service, and restrictions/conditions.
Misdemeanor Probation vs. Felony Probation
If you are given probation after a misdemeanor, your sentence looks a lot different than that of felony probation.
In misdemeanor cases, probation terms typically do not require a report from the county in order for the judge to determine the details of your sentence. You will usually not be required to report regularly to a probation officer. This responsibility gives you more freedom, but still requires you to maintain a sense of ownership over your future rights and freedoms.
In felony cases, a probation officer is almost always assigned, and the terms of your probation are typically much more strict and thorough. A full report of your case is required before terms are set, especially in cases involving sex crimes, as these convictions are held to a higher standard and much lower tolerance for mistakes throughout your term.
Possible Conditions of Probation
Probation is meant to be a term that gives you the opportunity to give back to the community, take full responsibility for your actions, receive any necessary rehabilitation and serve the community of victims you may have offended. Judges try to fit the punishment to the crime (in ideal cases), and often, probationary terms may be negotiable. However, probation is far from a lenient sentence. It requires work, it restricts your rights and it requires you to live as a model citizen to prove that you can continue to be a non-threatening member of society.
Terms of probation vary greatly from case to case, but generally, you can expect the following from your probation conditions:
o Payment in the form of fines or victim restitution
o Community service that may involve organizations offended by your crime or Cal-Trans road work to improve streets and freeways
o Therapy, in individual or group settings depending on your offense
o Seek employment
o If your offense includes domestic or sexual violence, a restraining order may be included in your sentence
o Abstinence from drugs and alcohol in DUI cases (this may include rescinding your right to refuse a chemical DUI test during probation and installing a device in your car and/or wearing an ankle bracelet to track BAC)
o Agree to follow all laws
Your particular conditions will vary and be specified based on your case, your judge and your ability to complete particular terms.
Early Termination of Probation
If you prove to be a model citizen during probation and you are able to complete your terms early, for example, community service hours and fines, you may be eligible for early termination at the discretion of your judge.
How can I learn more?
To learn more about the possibility of terminating your probation or to seek representation in your criminal case, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony conviction, please contact the Law Offices of Alisha A. Wood to speak to a professional about your case.
The Law Offices of Alisha A. Wood
San Diego, California