Is misdemeanor probation equivalent to felony probation? Yes, for the most part. Probation does not change just because an individual had a prior felony or misdemeanor conviction. However, there are several rules that may apply to a more serious charge.
This blog post was written for people who are on probation. We will go over the subtle differences between a felony and misdemeanor probation. Finally, we’ll discuss how to succeed while on probation and how to avoid a misdemeanor probation violation.
What is Misdemeanor Probation?
Misdemeanor probation is a penalty for a misdemeanor criminal conviction. In a felony case, the court has the authority to impose felony probation.
Probation is an alternative to incarceration. Instead of sending a defendant to jail, a judge or jury can sentence him or her to probation. Probation can lessen the amount of time a person spends in jail. It can even entirely replace jail time as a form of punishment.
Just because defendants receive probation rather than jail time does not mean the sentence is insignificant. Probation can be challenging. A probation program’s rules can be exceedingly stringent. The following are some of the most prevalent probation terms:
- Volunteering in the community,
- not being arrested or charged with a new offense,
- payment of restitution to the victim
- Seeing a probation officer on a regular basis,
- completing drug or alcohol rehabilitation,
- completing further courses as ordered by the court, such as anger management classes
- keeping up with child support payments,
- keeping a steady job,
- getting tested for drugs or alcohol at random,
- Staying in the region and only leaving with the probation officer’s specific consent, and
- Court charges and probation fees must be paid.
Convictions for various offenses may result in varying lengths of probation. The period of probation will also vary according to the seriousness of the crime. The terms of a defendant’s probation can also be influenced by his or her criminal history.
Misdemeanor probation can also take a variety of forms. They are as follows:
- Conviction probation,
- Probation for conviction, and
- Deferred adjudication
#1. Conviction Probation
Conviction probation is a probationary sentence imposed after a defendant has been convicted. A conviction may result from a trial or a plea bargain. A judge or a jury can make the decision.
Conviction probation can cover all or part of a misdemeanor’s jail term. Straight probation is used when it covers the whole jail sentence. Defendants sentenced to pure probation do not serve any time in jail.
Importantly, defendants who are sentenced to probation after a conviction will still have a criminal record. Anyone who conducts a background check can discover the conviction. This can have long-term consequences. The imperfection can be removed in some situations. In other circumstances, it is not possible.
#2. Deferred Adjudication
Deferred adjudication refers to a probation term that occurs prior to a conviction. Judges have the authority to postpone or defer a conviction in order to allow the offender to finish a probation sentence.
If the defendant wins, the case is over. The case does not result in a criminal record because there was never a final conviction. Defendants do not need to get the conviction overturned because it never occurred.
The case is reopened if the offender breaches a term of his or her probation. It proceeds directly to sentencing. The defendant may be sentenced to prison by the judge. The time spent on deferred adjudication probation would not be counted against the jail term.
Misdemeanor Probation Rules
Misdemeanor probation rules, like felony probation rules, are often based on the underlying offense. Here is a list of basic probation guidelines that may apply to your case:
- Do not break the law;
- Inform your probation officer of any police contact.
- Accept counseling requirements/suggestions;
- Attend your probation officer’s appointments;
- Before departing obtain a travel permit.
Probationary Period Survival Guide
Dealing with probation authorities can be challenging. We’ve worked with the folks who will be monitoring you, and we know how unhappy some of them are. But one thing is critical: stick to the regulations. If you don’t follow the rules, your agent can and will try to lock you up without a second opportunity (especially if they are very unhappy). Don’t drink if you’ve been advised not to. Finally, if you are unable to communicate with your ex, do not do so.
Misdemeanor Probation Terms and Conditions
Misdemeanor probation, as previously noted, is normally imposed for 36 months, or three years. However, the probation period is sometimes prolonged to 48 or even 60 months. In less serious situations, summary probation could last only 12 or 24 months.
The imposition of certain requirements on the defendant is the main characteristic of a grant of summary probation in all situations. To be placed on summary probation, the defendant must agree to these restrictions.
The first and most crucial requirement of any award of summary probation is compliance with all laws and court directives. In practice, this implies that any future arrest for a new misdemeanor or felony violation, or any refusal to follow the court’s directions, could result in a probation violation.
It is crucial to note that the threshold of proof for a misdemeanor probation violation is far lower than the standard of proof for actually convicting the defendant of the new claimed felony. This means that a defendant could be acquitted by a jury for fresh conduct but yet have their probation breached in an already-settled case if the defendant is on summary probation.
Other common summary probation requirements involve the defendant:
- Perform community service hours;
- Participate in individual or group counseling;
- Participate in an alcohol or drug misuse program;
- Consumption of alcohol or drugs is prohibited;
- Payment of fines or restitution to victims;
- Look for work.
Other brief probation restrictions are tied to the specific defendant and the criminal activity that resulted in the conviction.
The severity of these circumstances is usually the topic of plea bargaining between the government and defense counsel. Certain misdemeanor offenses also include mandatory statutory terms that must be enforced if probation is granted and accepted by the defendant rather than jail time.
Felony Probation vs. Misdemeanor Probation
In California, there are two types of criminal probation: felony probation and misdemeanor probation. The sort of probation granted, if any, is determined by whether the offender was convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor offense. A felony and a misdemeanor are two types of criminal offenses. Felonies are serious crimes such as murder, domestic burglary, torture, stalking, and so on. Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies but more serious than infractions. Misdemeanor crimes include ordinary offenses including first-time DUI without injury, trespass without injury, petty theft, public intoxication, revenge porn, domestic abuse, and others.
Generally, felony crimes have lengthier sentences and worse consequences than misdemeanor offenses. As a result, if granted, a felony probation sentence is usually significantly lengthier and more intrusive in the defendant’s life than a misdemeanor probation sentence.
Note: The length of a probation term in misdemeanor cases typically spans from one to four years and from three to five years in felony cases; however, some felony probation sentences can last much longer, particularly in sex crimes type situations. In addition, occasionally a probation term is supposed to last a certain amount of time, but the probation sentence is prolonged for various reasons. For example, if a defendant is sentenced to two years on misdemeanor probation following a conviction for keeping a house of ill repute, the probation sentence may be extended beyond two years until the offender pays all criminal fines linked to the offense, even if this takes ten years!
Formal vs. Informal Probation
Formal probation is typically coupled with a felony conviction. In contrast to being overseen by the court, a formal probation sentence is supervised by a probation officer. During a formal probation term, a probation officer oversees the defendant’s progress. The probationer must normally check in with the probation officer on a regular basis, and the probation officer may make random visits to the probationer’s residence to look for contraband or evidence of probation violations. As a requirement of felony probation, the probationer must usually cooperate with any search of her person or premises.
A misdemeanor conviction is connected with informal probation. However, after a misdemeanor offense conviction, a person may be sentenced to formal probation. The court monitors informal probation, which means the defendant does not have a probation officer to watch her. Informal probation is also known as misdemeanor probation, summary probation, and court probation. All of these informal probation words are interchangeable.
Reducing Felony Probation to Misdemeanor Probation
After committing a wobbler offense, a defendant may be sentenced to felony probation. A wobbler offense is one that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In every given wobbler case, whether the defendant is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor is primarily determined by the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and the conditions of any plea agreement reached between the district attorney and the defendant.
In any case, if a defendant is sentenced to felony probation, she may petition the court to have that probation reduced to misdemeanor probation. The probationer requests that the underlying felony charges be reduced to misdemeanor charges, resulting in a reclassification of her kind of probation (felony or misdemeanor). This only appears in wobbler crimes.
Is It Possible to Get Misdemeanor Probation Revoked?
If any of the provisions of misdemeanor probation are broken, it might be revoked.
The prosecutor initiates the revocation process. If he or she believes a probation term has been violated, he or she may file a motion to revoke probation. This will result in the probationer’s arrest. The probationer is taken to the county jail after being apprehended. The probationer can be detained until his or her revocation hearing.
At the hearing, the prosecutor has the burden of proving that probation was breached. They must demonstrate this by a preponderance of the evidence. This is far less than demonstrating a misdemeanor probation violation beyond a reasonable doubt.
At this hearing, the probationer has the right to be represented by an attorney. They can refute the claim by demonstrating that there was no misdemeanor probation violation.
A judge may:
- Decide that no violation occurred and release the probationer,
- Decide on a misdemeanor probation violation, revoke probation, and imprison the probationer, or
- Determine whether probation was breached, tighten probation terms even more, and release the probationer.
When a person violates probation that was given through deferred adjudication, judges frequently send him to jail.
Early Probation Termination
A defendant who is sentenced to a felony or misdemeanor probation following a criminal conviction may request that his or her probation period be reduced. For example, a defendant sentenced to three years probation for soliciting a prostitute (PC 647(b)(2)) may seek that his probation is reduced to two years. Early termination of a probation sentence is a popular request; however, unless the defendant has otherwise satisfied all of the terms of his probation and the only term remaining is time, the court is unlikely to shorten the defendant’s probation in terms of time. Furthermore, even if the offender has completed all of his other probation terms, the court is unlikely to terminate a probation sentence early if the defendant has not served at least fifty percent of the time that was ordered.
In truth, the length of the defendant’s probation term may not be decreased in some situations. For example, a defendant placed on probation following a conviction for domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1)) or inflicting corporal injury on a spouse (PC 273.5(a)) may not have her probation sentence lowered even if she has fulfilled all of the provisions of her probation save the time requirement.