Posted by Jeremy Swanson
On December 31, 2014

“What Is The Difference Between Formal and Informal Probation?”

“What Is The Difference Between Formal and Informal Probation?”


First, what is probation? Probation is the opportunity to serve anywhere from no time up to a year in County Jail and then have the balance of any potential sentence not imposed while you prove that you will no longer engage in inappropriate behavior. The terms of probation are given by the Judge imposing the sentence. You have to agree to them in order to get probation. In the eyes of the law, it is leniency in sentencing to give someone the opportunity to show they have learned their lesson.


Generally, formal probation is supervised by an assigned probation officer to whom you must report on a regular basis. This reporting may be by mail and or in person. Depending on the type of probation, you may be required to do a variety of things such as take classes, drug test, complete community service, etc. This is generally the kind of probation that is ordered on felony cases. It has the effect of limiting your ability to move out of the area and can interfere with employment at times.


Informal probation  is generally granted in misdemeanor cases and does not require a formal supervision by a specific probation officer. You do not have to have meetings with the Probation Department. Your probation is supervised by the Court. Whatever terms are ordered by the Judge are those to which you will be subject. Often times those terms will include that you refrain from any new law violations, as well as any specific orders for attending classes or paying restitution. If the underlying case warrants it, there may be orders to not use drugs, not consume alcohol, consent to searches by law enforcement etc.


In all cases of probation, you can have your full sentence imposed if you fail to satisfy the terms of probation. If you are facing a criminal sentence, be it a felony or a misdemeanor, you should seek the assistance of an attorney to see whether  you can get the appropriate type of probation as well as probation terms that you can successfully complete.


DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.