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DUI: Formal vs. Informal Probation

  • May 26, 2017

    A defendant who is convicted of a DUI offense may be sentenced to jail or prison time, but in most cases, a judge sentences a defendant to probation, formal or informal. Completion of probation is achieved upon fulfillment of the time and requirements for probation set out by the Court. Defendants are responsible for adhering to the requirements of their probation for its full length, and an infraction prior to completing probation can result in a jail or prison sentence. It is crucial that a defendant accused of a DUI offense seeks a Los Angeles DUI attorney for competent legal counsel.

    Informal Probation:
    Judges most often sentence misdemeanor DUI offenders to informal probation (also called summary probation), which is managed by the Court. Probation officers are not assigned to monitor defendants sentenced to informal probation, which means that the defendant is independently accountable for fulfilling the terms of probation. Note: Ventura County, unlike other counties in the area, calls for the assignment of formal probation to DUI offenders even if the DUI offense is their first.

    The terms of informal probation may require the defendant to provide proof of progress or completion of assignments by specific dates. Proof of completion of the assignments must be provided in one of two ways, as indicated by the Court: (1) the Court may set dates on which the defendant must present proof of progress or completion, or (2) it may only require the defendant to mail or deliver proof of completion documents to the county clerk’s office by a specific due date.

    A defendant on informal probation who owes restitution must pay the victim(s) directly. If the defendant is unable to pay the full amount of the restitution that is owed, he or she is given a hearing, and the Court issues a requirement for monthly payments to the victim(s) as a condition of his or her informal probation.

    Failure to meet the deadlines and terms set out by the Court may result in a stricter set of terms for probation. In the case of a missed deadline, the Court formally issues a probation violation and a warrant for the defendant’s arrest (a bench warrant, also known as a failure to appear warrant) requiring the defendant to appear in Court.

    Formal Probation:
    Formal probation involves a more stringent set of terms and requirements than informal probation, and it is typically reserved for felony DUI offenders (See the above note regarding Ventura County). A DUI is designated as a felony DUI if a defendant has been convicted of four or more DUIs in a ten-year period. Felony convictions which may result in a sentence of formal probation include: DUI with injury (DUI with injury may be designated as either a misdemeanor or a felony charge), vehicular manslaughter under the influence, and gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence. A conviction of a felony DUI offense may result in a sentence of jail time as well as formal probation.

    The defendant is required to report to the county probation office very soon after they are sentenced or released from custody. If the defendant resides in a county or state other than the one in which they were sentenced to formal probation, he or she can transfer probation to the county or state of residence.

    A defendant sentenced to formal probation pays a probation fee and is assigned a probation officer. The probation officer’s task is to monitor the defendant and confirm that they are complying with the terms of their probation. The defendant is required to report to the probation officer at regular intervals, and may be also be subject to “surprise” or unscheduled home inspections and drug tests.

    In the case of a defendant on formal probation who owes restitution, the Court will designate a plan for payments due to the victim(s) each month over the course of the probation. Failure to meet the requirements of probation can result in stricter probation and/or jail or prison time.

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