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Summary / Informal vs. Felony / Formal Probation in California

Mar 24 2017, by Jessica McElfresh in Felony, Legal Blog, Misdemeanor

When you are facing criminal charges in California, you are probably wondering about probation. What is it really and is it available to you? California has different levels of probation that are possible depending on your criminal history and the type of charges you face.

To learn more about whether or not you are eligible for probation if convicted, call a San Diego probation attorney at McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107.

What is Probation?

Probation is the release of an offender from incarceration under certain circumstances. You may face probation in lieu of all or part of a jail or prison sentence. There are two types of probation in California. If prosecutors have charged you with a misdemeanor or a wobbler, a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony based on the prosecutor’s discretion, then you may be able to obtain summary probation, also known as informal probation. If prosecutors have charged you with a felony or a violent misdemeanor, then you may only be eligible to receive felony probation, also called formal probation.

Summary Probation

In California, there is a lower level of probation known as summary, informal or court probation. This type of probation is generally granted to you when you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime and deemed to not be a danger to the community. It is also possible to obtain informal probation for a wobbler. However, summary probation is not for most felony-level or violent crimes.

During summary probation, you are under inactive supervision for one month to five years. While you must follow the conditions of probation, you do not have to check in with a probation officer or the probation department. However, the court may monitor your progress through periodic court dates to ensure you are in compliance.

When you are granted informal probation, it is with a revocable or conditional release from prison or jail. A revocable or conditional release means you will be sent back to prison or jail to finish out your sentence if you violate the terms of your probation. These terms can include:

  • Completing educational requirements
  • Attending alcohol or drug treatment
  • Paying restitution to the victims of your crime
  • Completing community service hours
  • Adhering to a restraining order to stay away from a person or place
  • Give up possession of any firearms
  • Obey all federal and California laws

The exact conditions of your information probation will depend on your criminal history and the offense you were convicted for. For example, a conviction for a DUI will require alcohol education and treatment, while a conviction for animal abuse may require anger management or animal cruelty classes or even volunteering with or donating to an animal rights organization.

You can enjoy a great deal more freedom under summary probation than under formal or felony probation. However, the consequences of not following the rules will be severe. If you are accused of violating a condition of your probation, speak with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your attorney can represent and defend you during a Probation Revocation Hearing.

Formal Probation

Formal, or felony, probation is more restrictive than summary probation and is assigned when you are convicted of a felony crime or a misdemeanor and are deemed a danger to the community. Under formal probation, you are required to register with the Adult Probation Department, usually within 48 hours of being released from prison or jail.

The department will assign you a probation officer to explain the conditions of your probation and supervise your probation. You will be required to meet with your probation officer at regular intervals for up to five years. At first, your check-ins may be close together, such as every other week. However, over time, when you demonstrate that you are willing and capable of following the terms of your probation, you may be allowed to check in less often. How you are allowed to check-in depends on your situation. You may be able to use a phone call or you might have to appear in person. Your probation officer may have the right to come to your home and inspect where and how you live.

Like summary probation, felony probation is also conditional. If you are caught violating any term of your probation, this privilege will be revoked and you will be sent back to jail or prison to complete your sentence. Common conditions for felony probation include those for summary probation and more. For instance, may be required to wear a GPS tracking device at all times, submit travel or moving plans to your probation officer for approval, and take random drug or alcohol tests.

A San Diego Probation Attorney Is Here to Help

Facing criminal charges that have the potential to bring with them significant statutory and collateral consequences can be overwhelming. If this is your first offense, you may not understand how probation works, whether or not it is the same or different from parole, and whether probation is an option in your situation. By calling McElfresh Law and working with an experienced probation lawyer, you can learn about probation and how to seek summary or felony probation to minimize the consequences of a conviction.

Contact us at (858) 756-7107 to schedule a consultation and learn more about probation.