Ty Anis Oct. 31, 2018

Many clients have questions about what it means to placed on probation. The reality is that if you are placed on probation, then you still face the risk of substantial time in custody until your probation has ended. As a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, I have seen countless defendants end up in custody because of a failure to understand the seriousness of a probation violation. Below is a discussion of probation and some examples of how to stay out of trouble.

The first question to ask when discussing probation is whether you have been placed on misdemeanor or felony probation. Felony probation is often called “formal probation” while misdemeanor probation in California is often referred to as “informal” or “summary” probation. So how do these two grants of probation generally differ in Los Angeles and Orange County courts?


Felony probation is granted in felony cases when an individual does not receive a state prison sentence. But if a defendant violates felony probation, the court can send the defendant to jail or to prison for up to the maximum time on the criminal charge. A defendant on felony probation in California will typically have to report to a probation officer on a regular basis. The individual may be drug tested and restrictions may be placed upon travel. The probation officer has the ability to inform the court of any potential violations. The court can also find violations based upon its own observations of a defendant’s performance on probation. Common violations include defendants not reporting as required, new criminal arrests, violations of protective orders, positive drug tests, or failures to complete requirements such as restitution, court ordered classes, or community service. A judge will typically then propose an indicated sentence or schedule a probation violation hearing. At a hearing, the prosecution would attempt to show that a violation has occurred. A defendant has the right to hire an attorney to assist in the hearing and it is critical to speak to an experienced probation violation attorney as soon as possible. Below are a few examples of common felony probation issues:

  1. A Manhattan Beach defendant receives a sentence of 180 days in jail and 3 years of formal probation. He is instructed to report to the local probation office after his release from jail. The defendant never reports to probation. In this case, the local probation office will report his failure to report to the Torrance Courthouse. The judge will likely issue a warrant for his arrest and he will face additional punishment for this violation.

  2. An Inglewood defendant receives a sentence of 90 days in jail, 5 years of formal probation, and is ordered to complete 52 anger management counseling sessions. The defendant begins the classes but is kicked out of the counseling program for missing too many classes. Once again, the probation office or the program will inform the Inglewood court and the defendant will be facing a violation.

  3. A Long Beach defendant is placed on 3 years of formal probation with narcotics conditions and receives credit for time served. The defendant fails one drug test and skips another scheduled appointment. The defendant will be facing multiple violations at the Long Beach Courthouse.


Misdemeanor probation is generally less restrictive than felony probation although this can vary from case to case. Misdemeanor probationers will generally not have a probation officer and will have less restrictions on their travel. However, misdemeanor defendants still routinely face violations for new arrests of failure to comply with court ordered probation conditions. A misdemeanor defendant will have the same right to hire an attorney as a felony probationer. Just as with felony probation violations, a judge can sentence a misdemeanor defendant to the maximum jail on charges that they have been convicted of previously. A defendant in a misdemeanor probation violation also has the right to hire an experienced attorney to assist with negotiations and a defense at a hearing. Below are a few common examples of common misdemeanor probation issues:

  1. A Hermosa Beach DUI defendant is ordered to complete a 3 month alcohol program as a condition of probation. The defendant fails to enroll by the deadline set by the court. The clerk’s office at the Torrance Courthouse will inform the responsible judge of this failure and the defendant will be facing a probation violation.

  2. A Redondo Beach defendant is convicted of domestic violence and ordered to have no contact with the victim for three years. The defendant calls the victim after two years who then tells the Redondo Beach police and the Redondo Beach prosecutor’s office about the call. The defendant may be facing both a new criminal case and a probation violation at the Torrance Courthouse.

  3. A Santa Monica defendant is convicted of being drunk in public on the Santa Monica Pier. As a condition of probation out of the Airport Courthouse, the defendant is ordered to stay away from the bar outside which he was arrested. The defendant goes back to the location to complain about them calling the police. Once again, the defendant could be facing a probation violation for disobeying the court’s stay away order.

All of the above examples are based on real cases. Probation violations can result in penalties even worse than the original punishment. Additionally, no right to jury trial exists for a probation violation and the burden of proof is far lower than needed for a new criminal case. Do not go into court by yourself or with an inexperienced or mediocre attorney. Contact me today so that I can learn about your case and begin a plan of defense based upon my years as a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.