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Penalties For Probation Violations in California

Posted in Criminal Defense on July 21, 2019

In Orange County, plea bargains resolve about 95 percent of all criminal cases. In a few instances, these plea bargains include jail or prison time. Probation is not available in all cases, especially serious felonies. Additionally, some defendants have issues which make it difficult to be in a certain place at a certain time. A short incarceration period, as opposed to a lengthy court supervision period, may be the best option in these situations.

But the vast majority of plea bargains involve a probated jail or prison sentence. Penal Code Section 1203.3 gives judges considerable discretion with regard to probation matters. So, judges may end probation early or otherwise favorably modify the conditions. They may also impose penalties for people who violate probation.

In probation revocation matters, just like at the underlying criminal trial, an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a significant difference.

Probation violation penalties in California

Probation Violation Consequences in California

As mentioned, the law gives judges considerable leeway when they assess punishment in probation violation cases. Some common outcomes include:

  • Incarceration as a Condition of Reinstatement: This outcome may be the most common one, especially for middle-of-the-road violations like failure to report. The judge orders the defendant to serve a few days or weeks in jail, and then continues the defendant on probation. 
  • Imposition of Original Sentence: For serious violations, such as committing a new crime, the judge may impose the original suspended sentence. So, in the above suspended sentence example, the judge would revoke the defendant’s probation and replace it with a three-year prison sentence.
  • Additional Conditions: In the eyes of the judge, minor technical violations may merit some punishment, but they are not serious enough to warrant incarceration. So, the judge may extend the length of probation or impose some additional terms, such as more community service or an Ignition Interlock Device extension.

In deferred disposition matters, the judge may revoke the defendant’s probation and sentence the defendant to any jail or prison term authorized by law. So, before you accept such an arrangement, carefully review all pros and cons with your attorney.

Common Probation Violations

Typically, probation involves a suspended jail or prison sentence. For example, a judge might probate (suspend) a three-year prison sentence for ten years. During those ten years, the defendant must comply with a number of conditions. 

Regular reporting to a probation officer, committing no other offenses against the State of California, and paying fines and restitution are probably the three biggest conditions. Almost all defendants must comply with these basic conditions.

Additionally, the judge may impose a number of offense-specific conditions. For example, DUI probation usually includes an Ignition Interlock Device requirement. And, assault probation often includes an anger management or other class requirement.

If the defendant violates any condition, the prosecutor must prove the violation in court by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s a much lower burden of proof than the one at trial. This issue sometimes makes a difference in some cases. 

For example, if the defendant possesses drugs or other contraband, prosecutors must prove each element of possession (proximity, knowledge, and control) beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. But in probation revocations, much less evidence is required. Proximity alone may be enough to establish possession in these situations.

Contact a Local Lawyer

Orange County judges have considerable discretion in probation revocation matters. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Riverside, contact Graham Donath Law Offices, APC. Home and jail visits are available.