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Written by Attorney Seth Morris


When placed on probation in California, you must follow specific terms — failing to adhere to these terms leads to a devastating probation violation, potentially serving time in jail or facing additional penalties. The details of your violation determine the extent of your punishment, and you have options to fight your probation violation to avoid further damage to your record.

What Are the Terms of a California Probation?

Probation allows you to avoid the harsher penalties of a criminal conviction. Most notably, you will not be required to remain in prison or jail. Instead, you can go about your life with some restrictions.

If you are placed on felony or formal probation, you must report to your probation officer at regularly scheduled intervals. If you are placed on summary or informal probation, you will not need to report to a probation officer periodically, but there will be other terms you need to follow.

Common conditions you need to meet as part of a probation sentence in California include:

  • Completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program
  • Completion of community service hours
  • Completion of court-ordered anger management
  • Completion of court-ordered mental health counseling
  • Curfew restrictions
  • Driver’s license restrictions
  • Obtaining gainful employment or attending school
  • Random drug or alcohol testing
  • Other terms

Failure to adhere to the terms of your probation could result in a probation violation. If your probation is violated, the consequences could be devastating.

What Are Common Probation Violations?

You might violate your probation in many ways, including:

  • Being charged with another crime
  • Failure to obtain gainful employment
  • Failure to report to a probation officer
  • Violating a restraining order or protective order
  • Leaving the jurisdiction without your probation officer’s permission
  • Failure to pay court fines or fees
  • Failure to complete court-ordered community service
  • Failure to complete drug treatment or education requirements
  • Failure to appear in court

What Happens When You Allegedly Violate Your Probation?

Individuals who violate the terms of their probation are at risk for arrest. Suppose you’re not compliant with the terms of your probation, or your probation officer has a reasonable belief that you’ve violated the terms of your probation. In that case, they have the authority to arrest you immediately without a warrant.

You will be issued a violation of probation (VOP) hearing and may be jailed with or without bail.

What Happens at the Probation Hearing?

At your VOP hearing, your attorney must present evidence to defend you against the probation violations. The state’s prosecuting attorney also presents evidence supporting the allegations against you. It’s crucial to note that the prosecuting attorney doesn’t need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a VOP hearing.

Instead, the burden of proof is based on a preponderance of the evidence. The prosecutor must show that you were more likely than not violated at least one of the terms of your probation. Your VOP hearing is heard by a judge who determines whether you violated your probation.

Probation Hearings vs. Criminal Trials

VOP hearings are different from criminal trials in several ways. You know that the burden of proof in a criminal trial is beyond a reasonable doubt, but the same is not true for VOP hearings, where guilt can be proven based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Criminal trials differ from probation hearings due to the types of evidence presented. Hearsay evidence is generally considered inadmissible in criminal trials but is often admissible at probation hearings.

However, probation hearings are like criminal trials because defendants have the same rights to an attorney, testify at trial, and call witnesses.

Aggravating Factors Considered in a Probation Violation

If you are found guilty of violating the terms of your probation, several aggravating factors impact the outcome of your case. These factors include:

You could face harsher penalties if aggravating factors exist after you’ve been accused of violating your probation.

Potential Consequences of a Probation Violation

If found guilty of violating the terms of your probation, the judge has the authority to revoke or end your probation altogether.

First-time offenders may have their probation reinstated without adjusting the existing conditions. Alternatively, the judge might revoke your probation temporarily and issue reinstatement after you have served some time in jail.

The judge may also elect to extend your probation and change the conditions.

For example, suppose you violated your probation by using illicit drugs. In this case, the judge may impose additional probation requirements, including completing a drug or alcohol treatment program.

The judge might impose additional fines, education or treatment requirements, or other appropriate terms. If your probation is revoked entirely, you could be forced to serve the remaining term of your probation in jail or prison.

What Are Your Options When Charged with a Probation Violation?

If accused of violating the terms of your probation, your Oakland criminal defense lawyer must carefully review the circumstances of your case to determine which approach is most likely to produce a favorable outcome.

Common defenses used to challenge probation violations include:

  • Presenting evidence that the terms of your probation were not violated
  • Asking for time served
  • Presenting mitigating factors that could reduce your consequences

Contact a California Probation Violation Lawyer for Help Today

Have you been accused of violating your probation? If so, you could be facing serious jail time and other penalties. Reach out to an aggressive California criminal lawyer at Morris Law for help clearing your name. Schedule your confidential consultation today by calling our law office at (510) 225-9955 or completing our secured contact form.