When a criminal goes before the courts for sentencing, the judge may decide to place him on probation in certain cases. One type of probation, available in California and several other states, means the offender does not need to report to a probation officer. Commonly called bench probation, summary probation, conditional probation or informal probation, these probationers must still follow certain rules set forth by the courts.
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Offenders qualify for informal probation based on the type of offense they commit, usually a misdemeanor. In addition, they generally have little, if any previous criminal record. The courts need to know the probationer will remain law-abiding and not commit any new offenses. The probationer must usually report any police contact to the probation department immediately, including any traffic tickets.
While the probationer does not usually need to physically report to the probation officer at her office, in certain cases, the probationer may need to call her probation officer. She may want a travel permit or may have had some type of police contact. If there is an issue paying any court-ordered fees, the probation officer may want to meet with the probationer personally to review a budget or financial plan. These meetings will be rare and scheduled only on an as-needed basis.
The probationer must pay all court fees, including a probation service fee, any mandated fines and restitution to the victim. Should the probationer fall behind in payments, the probation officer will talk with him to work out a plan of action.
The probationer must complete any community service or work order hours as directed by the courts. Although in certain cases, the probationer may choose the locale where she will serve, she generally must go to a state-approved agency to complete these hours. The courts usually set these at a rate of 10 hours per month.
The probationer may not leave the state without obtaining a travel permit from his probation officer. If he has contact with law enforcement personnel in another state, he must show them the travel permit so that the officers know he has permission and a legitimate reason to be out of his jurisdiction of supervision.
Should the probationer violate any of her probation terms, she can be returned to court to appear before the judge. While she may technically be sentenced to prison at that time, the judge might look at other options to try to address her violations, such as standard probation, substance abuse treatment or other counseling, a jail term or intensive probation.