After becoming a convicted felon, you will immediately feel the impact on your life. You may be facing a lengthy prison sentence as a result of a temporary lapse in judgment. 

If your judge mentioned probation during one of your hearings, you might be wondering what that could mean for your future. This guide will help you understand the premise of felony probation in California.

What Is Felony Probation?

Felony probation (also known as formal probation) is an alternative to lengthy incarceration available to certain convicted felons.

This type of probation is different than summary probation (informal probation) which is generally reserved for those convicted of misdemeanor offenses. Informal probation is generally more lenient than formal probation.

What Are the Terms of Release?

As long as you abide by the felony probation rules (or “terms and conditions”) of your release, you can continue to live your life how you want to within reason. The terms and conditions of your release may be different from someone else’s because they are determined on a case-by-case basis. 

Every probationer must regularly report to their probation officer. The terms of release will require you to avoid breaking any more laws and pay any court costs that you accumulated along the way.

Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding their case, a probationer may have to:

  • Pay restitution to their victims
  • Have random home searches (from the probation officer or law enforcement)
  • Avoid contact with known associates (or anyone on probation)

You may also have to submit to random drug tests or abstain from drinking alcohol, depending on your specific terms of release. This may also include the completion of treatment programs, DUI school, and/or anger management classes.

While you can still live a mostly normal life, there are a few things that you cannot do while on probation without getting approval. Moving to a different county or traveling while you are on probation can pose a problem.

If you want to move, you have to get approval from the court. If you want to travel, you have to get permission from your probation officer and potentially more authorization from the court. 

Is Everyone Eligible for Probation?

Not everyone is eligible for probation when convicted of a felony offense. Those not eligible for felony probation are likely to have been:

  • Convicted of a violent crime
  • Convicted of a felony while on probation
  • Convicted of a sex crime with aggravating circumstances

While it can be up to the judge’s discretion, a defendant might not be eligible for probation if they inflicted a serious bodily injury or used a deadly weapon against their victim.

Being eligible for probation depends on the seriousness of a felony offense.

How Long Does Probation Last?

If you or a loved one has dealt with informal probation, you might have noticed that it only lasted a year to a few years. This is an example of how informal probation is more lenient than formal probation. 

The rules for non-violent felony probation and misdemeanor probation recently changed with California Assembly Bill 1950. The bill shortened the length of probation times. In the past, probation could last for the entire prison sentence or up to five years (if the sentence was less than five years). 

As a result, California law states that probation may last up to two years for non-violent crimes. Felony probation can last up to three years for theft equaling more than $25,000 in total. Also, most misdemeanors changed to one year of informal probation.

What Happens When a Violation Occurs?

If you were to violate your probation, you would have to go before the judge at a probation violation hearing. Depending on the violation, the judge might draw up a bench warrant for your arrest. 

While you are in front of the judge, the prosecution will show any evidence that they have regarding your supposed violation. At this point, your criminal defense attorney can use this time to counter the prosecution’s evidence and plead with the judge on your behalf.

At this hearing, the judge will decide one of three things. The judge may give you a warning and another chance. The judge may change the conditions of your release to have harsher consequences. The judge may revoke probation and send you to jail or even prison for the duration of your sentence.

Can You Get Early Termination?

The judge in charge of your case can terminate your probation ahead of schedule if they should choose to do so. You may be eligible for early termination if being on probation is preventing you from finding gainful employment. 

Can the Judge Expunge Your Felony Charges?

When your probation is complete (without violations), the judge in charge of your case may expunge the record. This can help to reverse the hardships that come with being a convicted felon.

Felony Probation in California

Felony offenses can have a serious impact on your life. You might be facing a hefty prison sentence, or you might not be able to find gainful employment. Being eligible for felony probation in California can help you keep a little bit of normalcy in your life, despite the criminal charges. As soon as you get arrested for felony charges, you should reach out to a criminal defense attorney for legal aid. Contact us at Karagozian and Rudolph, PC today to get started on your criminal defense.