If you are in the position of asking this question in the first place, you need a candid, succinct answer: Yes, a Californian can go to jail for violating their probation. But, of course, there are layers to this topic, as one would expect of any legal question.
Criminal justice is complex and therefore subject to a great deal of interpretation by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, judges, and — in this case — probation officers. The intent underlying of probation is to rehabilitate, which — at times– can lead to more leniency in the eyes of those charged with upholding California law. Unfortunately, some who violate probation will face strict punishments in California.
There are a range of probation violation punishments, some severe, some relatively minor. Jail time is a very real possibility in the following circumstances, which indicate an unreliability incompatible with the relative freedom offered by probation:
- Flagrantly ignoring probation terms
- The original crime was severe
- Repeated offenses on record
Circumstances beyond a person’s control might result in an inadvertent probation violation. A probationer might unknowingly exit the jurisdiction to which they are confined or miss a check-in with their probation officer for traffic reasons or because of faulty communications. The fact is, life is complex and can be particularly challenging for a probationer. Judges wield a good deal of verdict-issuing power and are expected to call upon their wisdom and legal knowledge in determining whether probation terms were actively or circumstantially sidestepped.
Let’s look at the baseline facts as that apply to probationers.
What is Probation?
A sentence of probation is made in place of prison time. It is a necessarily restrictive sentence, one that limits movements and activities to those strictly approved by the court. Based on the category of probation, probationers are directly answerable to probation officers tasked with ensuring the specific terms of one’s probation. The acceptance of probation terms effectively accompanies a guilty plea, which is of enormous significance, as it means any probation violation stands alongside the original crime. Probationers essentially begin any violation hearing facing an uphill battle.
Types of Probation
Just as there are different tiers of criminal activity in the eyes of the law, there are different tiers of probation. Summary probation is largely reserved for those guilty of misdemeanor crimes, and do not require the probationer report to a probation officer. Felony offenders can be granted formal probation, which is far more restrictive in nature.
Because summary probation impinges comparatively little on the life of the probationer, its terms are less likely to be violated. Conversely, formal probation can carry with it a bevy of requirements, which makes violation a greater possibility. Furthermore, because formal probation is reserved for serious offenders, any failure to adhere to its terms invites a higher probability of severe punishment.
Sentencing Options For Probation Violation
The court’s sentencing authority is granted by California Penal Code section 1203.3 and allows for considerable discretion on part of the judge. As discussed, not all probation violations are intentional, nor are they all equal in terms of harm done, threat posed to society, et cetera. In many instances, the violations are more a matter of absent-mindedness on part of the probationer rather than being malicious in nature, as an experienced lawyer will attest.
Still, courts and probation officers have good reason to take violations seriously, and repeated violations more seriously still. Unquestionably, a person can go to jail for a probation violation in California. It is a very real possibility and should not be taken lightly by any probationer, whether they are serving a summary or formal probation sentence.
A judge might, for instance, reinstate a jail sentence consistent with the probationer’s original crime. If the defendant was facing 18 months of jail time but was instead granted probation, the judge might view sufficiently severe violation(s) of that probation as grounds for sentencing the probationer to those 18 months of jail time. In some cases, a judge might see fit to issue the maximum sentence allowable, though this typically follows a serious felony and subsequently egregious violating of the defendant’s probation terms. Though courts may also decide to modify a defendant’s violation terms, or to simply increase their duration, there is no guarantee a judge will take that route. All of which highlights the importance of having experienced legal counsel advocating on your behalf.
Legal Help For Violating Probation in California
A jail or prison sentence is a potential punishment in many criminal charges, so being on probation simply compounds the sentencing risk. If you find yourself in need of criminal defense counsel for to help with a probation violation case in California, the Simmrin Law Group has lawyers who specialize in cases like your own. Navigating the intricate system of laws surrounding probation terms can be overwhelming for even the brightest of individuals. To do right by yourself and by your case, contact the law office with the knowledge and resources to advocate for you in expert fashion at 310-896-2723.