After a person pleads guilty, no contest, or is convicted after trial, “probation” can be granted at sentencing instead of an order committing a person to county jail or state prison, either under the supervision of a probation officer (“formal” probation), or subject to conditions established by the court without the supervision of a probation officer (“informal”, “summary”, or “court” probation).[See Cal. Penal Code § 1203(a).]. For years, felony cases were generally subject to between three to five years of formal probation, and misdemeanors usually a standard of three years of informal probation in most circumstances.
A person subject to either informal or formal probation can be alleged to be in “violation of probation” if they violate a term of that probation or commit another law violation. In such circumstances the person alleged to be in violation of probation has the potential of being incarcerated for the maximum term provided by law for the crimes for which they were convicted,[Cal. Penal Code § 1203.3], and can be incarcerated without bail in felony cases until the violation of probation is either resolved or litigated in a “probation violation hearing”. The longer the period of probation, the longer the risk of the probationer potentially violating probation and facing a lengthy jail or prison sentence, even years after being placed on that probation term.
Luckily, starting January 1, 2021, Assembly Bill 1950 provides that in misdemeanor cases, probation shall not be granted for longer than one year, and in felony cases no longer than two years, unless the law related to a certain offense specifically requires a specific period of probation. [See Cal. Penal Code §§ 1203(a), 1203.1]. While certain offenses, such as “strikes” under Penal Code section 667(c), most “domestic violence” cases as limited under Penal Code section 1203.097, child abuse cases under Penal Code section 273a, and most DUI cases as limited under Vehicle Code section 23600, are not eligible for the new shorter delineated probation periods under AB 1950, the vast majority of defendants will benefit from the change in this law. [See Id.; Cal. Penal Code §§ 1203.097(a), 273a(c); Cal. Vehicle Code § 23600].
Importantly, defendants who were placed on probation prior to January 1, 2021 who are currently on probation for terms exceeding the current one-year (misdemeanor cases) and two-year (felony cases) probation limitations may be able to reduce their probationary periods to match the current state of the law through a motion for modification of probation. (See Cal. Penal Code §§ 1203.1-1203.3). Similarly, those defendants who have already exceeded supervision terms of one-year and two-year probation periods may even be able to terminate probation altogether through a motion for termination of probation based on the new state of the law. (See Cal. Penal Code § 1203.3 (b)(4).).
It is imperative to contact an experienced attorney to advocate on your behalf to obtain benefits under the new law, whether your case is new or old. Even in circumstances where you or a loved one may be facing charges that would not be eligible for the new reduction in standard probation periods, a skillful, experienced attorney may be able to resolve your case in a manner that can take advantage of the new law. The attorneys at Honeychurch & Giambona are prepared to meet your needs if you are charged with any crime in Solano, Napa, or Yolo Counties. Call Honeychurch & Giambona today at 707-429-3111 for a free consultation to determine how we can fight to achieve the best possible outcome for your pending case.