If you are convicted of a criminal offense in the State of California you may be ordered to complete a term of probation in addition to, or in lieu of, incarceration. While probation is certainly preferable to being in jail or spending time in prison, probation can also be very restrictive. As a probationer, you may also find yourself asking “What rights do I give up while on probation in California?”
In California, a defendant can be sentenced to either formal (felony) or informal (misdemeanor or “summary”) probation. As the names imply, formal probation is much more restrictive than informal probation. Informal probation basically just means you remain under the supervision of the court; however, you do not need to report to a probation officer nor do anything else related to the probation. In essence, you just need to stay out of trouble for the duration of your probation.
Formal probation, on the other hand, typically requires you to report to an officer and/or the court on a regular basis as well as fulfill specific conditions imposed on you by the court. For example, you might need to complete drug and alcohol counseling or perform community work service. Think of formal probation as serving a sentence in the community. Formal probation usually lasts for three to five years whereas informal probation is usually three years or less.
Whether you are on formal or informal probation you will give up certain rights while on probation. Because you are essentially being allowed to serve a sentence in the community while on formal probation you give up rights such as the right to own, purchase, and/or carry a firearm while on probation. You also give up the right to refuse a search of your person and/or home. This includes the right to refuse a drug test. Under normal circumstances a law enforcement officer (or probation officer) would need your consent or a warrant to conduct a search of you or your property; however, as a probationer a warrant is not needed.
A probation violation can result in a return to incarceration in California. All too often this occurs simply because the probationer failed to fully understand the rights and responsibilities that go along with probation. If you have been sentenced to probation in California, contact an experienced California probation attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your understanding of the terms of your probation is correct. For a free and confidential consultation, call San Diego probation attorney Domenic J. Lombardo at (619) 232-5122 or submit the secure form on this page.