If you are convicted of a criminal offense in California you may be sentenced to a length of incarceration or you may be allowed to serve a period of probation in lieu of incarceration. You could also be required to serve a period of probation after a short period of incarceration.
Understanding the rules that go along with being on probation is the key to avoiding a probation violation. One rule is that you cannot use any illegal drugs while on probation. Failing a drug test, therefore, could result in a probation violation in California. If you have been placed on probation you need to understand that, while it may not seem like it to you, probation is a privilege. You are being allowed to remain in society, at home with your friends or family, instead of going to jail for whatever crime you committed. That privilege, however, can be revoked at any time.
Typically, your probation period corresponds to the length of suspended sentence. Your suspended sentence is jail time that you have been sentenced to by the judge but that has been suspended. What this means to you, as the defendant, is that should you violate the terms of your probation you can be required to complete your “back-up time” or suspended sentence in jail. For example, let’s say that you were convicted of DUI and the judge sentenced you to one year in the county jail with all but five days suspended and a year of probation. You would complete your five days in the county jail and then begin your year of probation. Six months into your probationary period you violate your probation. You may now be required to complete your suspended sentence in jail.
The terms and conditions of probation in California can vary, however, there are some common conditions, such as:
- Report to probation officer on regular basis
- Not get arrested for an additional offense
- Pay fines and costs
- Complete required classes and/or evaluations
- Not consume alcohol
- Not use any illegal drugs
As part of your terms of probation you likely consented to submit to random drug and/or alcohol testing. This means that when you show up for a scheduled meeting with your probation officer you may be asked to submit to a drug test. Your probation officer could also show up at your home or call you in for a test as well. Failing the test will likely cause your probation officer to submit a probation violation to the court. The court will then schedule you for a violation hearing. If the court finds you in violation of your probation, the court can do one of three things as a general rule:
- Continue you on probation with no change
- Continue you on probation with additional terms or conditions and/or extend your probation period.
- Revoke your probation and require you to complete all, or a portion of, your suspended sentence.
If you are a probationer, make no mistake that failing a drug test can have serious consequences, so think twice before using drugs during your term of probation.