What Punishment Do I Face for a Probation Violation?

There is no set punishment for one who violates probation.  Rather, the judge has wide discretion in how he or she sentences one for violating probation.  However, there are a few general principles that do apply, as this article will set forth below.
What to Take Away:  If one is on probation, the sentence for the crime is suspended, so a violation of probation on a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months is less problematic than a violation of probation on a felony where defendant faces a twelve-year sentence due to sentencing enhancements.   
The judge will take into account several factors in sentencing.  First, the court will consider the seriousness of the violation.  The violation may be not submitting to a drug test, or failing the drug test, if drug testing was a condition or probation.  The violation may be committing a new crime, failing to appear in court for a court appearance, failing to pay a fine or restitution, or failing to comply with any other court order (such as enrolling in or completing, classes, community service or reporting to probation).  Most commonly, the violation is simply a failure to report.  The probationer does not report as ordered, sometimes because the person just is unclear what his or her obligations are.

How one presents oneself to court is also taken into account.  If one is arrested on another crime and brought before the judge while in custody, this is not good.  It is better if one voluntarily brings oneself to court to resolve the problem.  If the judge issues an arrest warrant or a bench warrant for one failing to comply with the terms of probation, it is good to prevent oneself in court as soon as possible; voluntarily.

Lastly, the court will take into account one’s criminal history, the recommendations of the probation department and how long one was on probation before the violation took place.   How long one serves on probation, especially in light of the plea bargain (how good or bad it is), is sometime given the most weight, especially if the time is very short.  The court will pay particular attention to whether the client violated probation in the past or was reinstated on probation in the pending case.  The court will often comment that probation is a privilege and not a right, so if the client “abused the trust the court placed on him by affording him probation,” the court will most likely not reinstate the client on probation.

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As mentioned above, the court has several options in ruling at a probation violation hearing.  The court can revoke violation and sentence the client to jail or prison.  When this happens, the client does receive credit toward the length of the sentence based on time previously spent in prison, jail or a residential treatment program.

The court can also reinstate one on probation, but with modified terms that are usually more difficult and meant to punish the client for his or her conduct.  For example, probation may be modified to add move community service, Cal-Trans or community labor.  The client may also have to serve time in county jail or the period of probation may be lengthened.  The court may also order that the client enroll in and complete an additional class.

The court may also reinstate the client on probation under the same terms and conditions.  This is the best outcome, obviously.

For more information about probation violations, click on the following articles:
  1. Three Month Lapse Between Arrest and Probation Violation Hearing Does Not Violate One’s Right to a Timely Hearing
  2. Court Rules That, in Drug Case, a Probation Condition Is Proper That Someone Not Associate with Others He Has Reason to Know Are Drug Users
  3. May a Judge Extend Summary Probation Beyond Three Years If There Are Probation Violations?
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