Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Probation?
A: The granting of probation is a privilege not a right. After an adult offender is convicted of a crime, the Court can suspend the sentence and place the offender on probation to the Court or on formal probation. If summary probation is ordered, the defendant does not report to a Probation Officer. If formal probation is ordered, the Probation Department will monitor the defendant’s compliance with the Court’s orders. The Court can order the defendant to serve up to a year in county jail as a condition of probation. While on probation the offender must obey all laws and follow the specific orders issued by the Court.
Q. What's the point of a suspended sentence?
A: A "suspended sentence" is one that's imposed but not carried out. If you stay out of trouble, you don't have to serve the prison sentence. The Court often give first time offender’s suspended sentences as an incentive for keeping out of trouble. It also frees up scarce jail space for more serious offenders. At the end of the suspension period, the judge lifts the sentence if you haven't gotten into trouble. But if you re-offend during your suspension (probation) period, you'll likely be sent to prison to serve the original sentence.
Q. Do I have to complete the entire probation time?
A: Generally, yes. If you've done everything you were required to do when you were sentenced to probation, including paying all restitution, fines and fees ordered, the deputy probation officer may be able to file a petition for an early release from probation.
Q: What is the difference between Probation and Parole?
A: Probation occurs when imposition of sentence is suspended or stayed. This is in lieu of a prison commitment. If prison is the sentence of the Court, then the defendant serves a period of time in prison as opposed to spending time in County Jail (commonly called local time). Parole is a condition of early release from prison. In 2010, California has implemented many changes to the parole system. You may access this information at:
Q: What does the Probation Department do to protect the community from the adult offender?
A: The Probation Department has many types of supervision programs to monitor a defendant’s conduct. For example, if he/she has a drug problem, the defendant could be referred to local or out of county live-in rehabilitation programs. Whatever the type of supervision, the defendant is expected to abide by the conditions of probation that were set out by the Court. The frequency and method of Probation Officer contact with probationers depends on the seriousness of the offenses committed. If the defendant does not comply with probation conditions, his/her probation can be revoked and he/she can be sentenced to prison to serve the prison term that was suspended or stayed earlier. In addition to special supervision programs, there are special programs (conditions of probation) offered such as Work Furlough. These programs allow consequences for the defendant other than jail custody.
Q. Can I get my conviction or guilty plea expunged?
A. Expungement law (Penal Code Section 1203.4) provides in part:
"[Petitioner shall]...be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or, if he or she has been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and, in either case, the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and except as noted below, he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted, except as provided..."
What about applying for jobs?
If Private Employers ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you can respond with "NO."
On questions by Government Employers or Government Licensing Applications if you are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you must disclose the expunged case. However, you should disclose that the conviction has been expunged in the "explanation/further details" section on the application.
What doesn't an Expungement do?
- You will not be allowed to own or possess a firearm until you would otherwise be able to do so.
- Your dismissed conviction can still be used to increase your punishment in future criminal cases, if the offense is "priorable"- such as a DUI or theft offense.
- An expungement will not relieve you of your duty to register as a sex offender.
Does this erase all records and destroy the Court file?
No. An expungement changes and updates the disposition of the case to reflect a dismissal under 1203.4 of the Penal Code. This means the Court file, the California Department of Justice, and the FBI update their files to show the case has been ordered dismissed by the Court.