Being arrested for a crime does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. Often we can help you get charges reduced or dismissed, and avoid jail and a criminal record.
A misdemeanor probation violation warrant is a bench warrant for your arrest if you are on misdemeanor probation but violated one of the terms and conditions. The warrant is often issued after you fail to appear at an appointment with your probation officer. The warrant will generally lead to an arrest and a probation violation hearing.
Misdemeanor probation violation warrants are bench warrants that are issued by a judge or probation officer who thinks that you have violated a term of your supervised release. They instruct law enforcement to arrest you the next time they interact with you.
Because a violation of misdemeanor probation is often a relatively low-level offense that does not threaten public safety, police tend not to actively execute them. Police officers will rarely go searching for you. Instead, they will execute the warrant if they ever interact with you. This happens most often at a traffic stop.
In California, criminal law draws a distinction between
The former is often called summary probation. Therefore, these types of warrants may be referred to as a summary probation violation warrant.1
They are similar to an arrest warrant in that you will be arrested, once found. They are different in that they are originated by the judge or by an affidavit from the probation officer, rather than by law enforcement.
A violation of misdemeanor probation is anything that breaks the terms of your probation, as set out by the sentencing judge after a misdemeanor conviction.
The terms of probation depend on the nature of the offense and your criminal background. Common rules are:
If the judge or probation officer has cause to believe that one of these rules has been violated by you, they will issue a misdemeanor probation violation warrant. A very common scenario that leads to a warrant being issued is when you miss a scheduled appointment with your probation officer or a required court date.
Some of these violations are relatively minor. These are technical violations.
Substantive violations are those that are serious, including those that amount to a new crime.
If the alleged violation involves another crime, you will face criminal charges in addition to the probation violation. The new criminal case will run alongside the probation violation case, and can lead to a new prison sentence.
Yes. Once the warrant is executed and you are arrested, the judge will schedule a probation violation hearing. This may also be referred to as a probation revocation hearing, as one of the possible outcomes is for the judge to revoke probation and send you to prison.
If you have been arrested for violating a term of your supervised release, you may be able to be released on bail before the violation hearing. The judge often has discretion in whether to set bail. It is most likely to be allowed if:
At the hearing, the prosecutor will have the burden of showing that you violated the specific term of your supervised release. In California, the prosecutor has the burden of proof. They have to show that there was a violation by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a less stringent standard of proof than the one at a criminal trial, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Hearsay evidence is also permitted at these hearings.2
Because this makes it easier for prosecutors to prove their case, you should exercise your right to have a criminal defense lawyer at your side during this hearing.
After considering the evidence, the judge may decide that:
If the judge finds that there was a probation violation, they can:
If you are on misdemeanor or summary probation and have broken one of its rules, you can:
(For more discussion, see our page on turning yourself in for a misdemeanor warrant.)
If you ignore the warrant, you will likely be arrested when you next interact with the police. You will then have to rely on the judge to set bail in order to be released for the probation violation hearing.
Because you are already being accused of violating the terms of your supervised release, the judge may be less likely to release you on bail. At the violation hearing, you are more likely to see your terms of probation tightened or even revoked. If they are revoked, your probation sentence will turn into a prison or jail sentence.
By voluntarily surrendering, you can avoid creating the appearance that you committed the alleged violation of probation. You can also show that you are taking the terms of your release seriously.
By surrendering to the judge, rather than to the police or to your probation officer, you may be able to avoid the jail time that comes between the execution of the warrant and the judge’s decision to set bail.
The most important thing to do before making a decision is to discuss your situation with an experienced criminal defense attorney from a local law firm.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.