Probation: Everything You Need to Know
You may have heard the term “probation” thrown around a lot on crime procedural dramas. You may assume that it is an easy alternative to a jail sentence or a process that someone has to go through once they serve their time in prison. However, in the criminal defense world, probation has a very clear definition, and not just anyone is granted the privilege.
What is Probation?
In California, probation is just one of four different forms of correctional supervision that a convicted criminal may go through, the other three being prison, jail, and parole. Probation and parole are often confused but are actually very different. When you are granted probation, it is in replacement of a jail or prison sentence. Parole, on the other hand, may be granted after you have already served part of your original sentence.
Probation allows you to avoid jail, but also means that the Californian government can still keep an eye on you. You will be required to check-in with a probation officer regularly, submit to certain tests, such as drug tests, and committing any crimes while on probation will cause the privilege to be revoked. Probation is considered by many the best possible outcome from a conviction, and so not taking the processes seriously will most likely result in a jail or prison sentence being instated.
Who is Eligible for Probation?
Not everyone can receive probation in California. There are many factors that determine a person’s eligibility. Allowing probation is a decision that a judge will take very seriously, as they do not want to release a dangerous individual back into the public with no consequences. Factors that will be considered include:
- Whether the crime was violent
- Whether the crime had any victims
- Whether you were armed
- Any past convictions
- Your attitude towards the alleged victim and the judge
- Whether imprisonment will have a detrimental impact on your health
If your crime was non-violent, there were no victims, your criminal history is clear, and your attitude towards the judge and jury during the trial is non-combative, then chances are you will be granted probation after your conviction. Probation doesn’t mean that you are totally free to do as you like.
Probation: Pros and Cons
The biggest positive of probation is the fact that it means you will not be incarcerated. Being locked away in jail can impact your relationships with your loved one, your ability to parent any children, and the likelihood that you will be able to hold down a job in the future. Even short prison sentences, ones that are only a handful of months long, can have a negative impact on your life.
However, probation is not necessarily a cakewalk, either. While you will be able to go to work, see friends and family, and enjoy some freedom, there are many other restrictions that could be placed on you. For one, you will have to regularly check in with a probation officer. Your officer will ask about your life, the rehabilitation process, and determine if probation is proving to be positive, or if incarceration would actually be a better choice. These meetings can be a drain on your time, as well as a heavy stressor in your life, as the officer will hold a great deal of power over you.
On top of that, you may be expected to pay back the community by performing services, such as cleaning up garbage on the side of the road. You may also be tasked with completing different programs meant to help improve your behavior. For example, you may be required to take anger management classes or driver’s education depending on your case. Counseling could also be required, especially in the case of a sex crime or a domestic violence conviction.
Even worse, you may temporarily lose the right to see your children. This is especially true of the crime was drug or violence-related. A judge will have a vested interest in making sure that your children are safe. If the judge feels that your presence, even if you are granted probation, will negatively impact the children, then you may not be allowed to see them until the probation has been completed.
While probation is certainly a better option than jail or prison time, the best option will always be complete freedom. That, however, requires that your charges be dropped or that you are found not guilty. The best way to win your case? Work with expert criminal defense attorneys who can go head to head with the prosecution.
At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have the legal know-how to get you the best possible outcome. If you are facing criminal charges, call our firm at (213) 688-0460, and speak with some of the best criminal defense attorneys in Southern California.