What is summary (or informal) probation?

If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor in Orange County, you may be placed on a period of probation.  Typically, for misdemeanor probation, it is informal probation.  This is sometimes called “summary probation” or “bench probation”.

How does informal probation differ from formal probation?

Formal probation

With formal probation, you typically have a probation officer you must report to.  Sometimes, there are phone reporting requirements (you must call on a set schedule to check in with them) or kiosk check-ins where you have to sign into their computer system to “check in”.  On formal probation, there may be a probation officer assigned and if you’re subject to search and seizure, they can come out and do a random probation compliance check and search all your belongings and your house.  There is also a cost of formal probation – you have to pay to be supervised.

Informal probation

I always explain that informal probation is kind of like the honor system.  When you’re sentenced to informal probation, the judge will impose several terms and conditions of your probation.  They may include things like “violate no law”, fines and fees that you have to pay to the court, community service or CalTrans or classes you must attend.  As long as you complete those things and stay out of trouble, your probation just goes along without a problem.  Informal probation only becomes a problem if you fail to complete something you were ordered to do or if you pick up a new case.

For example, if you were ordered to do 80 hours of community service, but either didn’t go sign up for the community service to begin with or you didn’t complete the number of hours you were required to do by the deadline, the community service office will notify the court of your issue and it’s likely a warrant will be issued for your arrest for failing to comply with the terms of your probation.  A misdemeanor probation violation warrant is usually issued for $15,000.

If you do all the things you’re supposed to do and you stay out of trouble, your probation will automatically expire and terminate without you having to do anything.  A reason it wouldn’t is if you failed to complete something and the court revoked your probation prior to it expiring.

How long does probation last?

Typically, probation is for three years.  In some cases, we can work out a “terminal disposition” meaning there would be no probation after the conclusion of the case.  Other times, a shorter term of probation can be negotiated (typically a year or 18 months).  In still other cases, it may start off as three years of probation with an agreement that either after a certain period of time or after you’ve completed something (community service, etc.) you can get your probation terminated and over.

If you have questions about terminating your probation, dismissing (“expunging”) your convictions or if there’s a warrant for your arrest for violating probation in Orange County, give me a call or send an email.

Joe Dane




See also:  Will a traffic ticket infraction violate my probation?

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