CHANGES TO PROBATION IN CALIFORNIA
On September 30, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1950 into law. This legislation makes significant changes to probation in California. Specifically, AB 1950 shortens the length of probation in most misdemeanor cases to one year and in most felony cases to two years.
What is probation?
When you are convicted of a crime, the law provides a maximum possible punishment, which is typically jail or prison time and/or a fine. However, very few people are sentenced to the maximum possible punishment. Instead, for most misdemeanors and many felonies, the judge will grant probation instead of sentencing you to the maximum possible jail term. When probation is granted, your jail time may be reduced or eliminated completely if you comply with all of the terms of your probation. Prior to AB 1950, felony probation would typically be up to three years, and misdemeanor probation would be between three and five years.
How does AB 1950 change probation?
The primary change made by AB 1950 is shortening the probation period. Under AB 1950, most misdemeanor convictions will carry one year of informal/court probation and most felony convictions will carry in two years of formal probation. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule.
AB 1950 does NOT reduce the time for probation for the following convictions:
- Violent felonies (as defined by Penal Code Section 667.5); or
- Certain financial crimes (convictions under Penal Code Sections 487(b)(3), 503, or 532a), where the amount of money involved is greater than $25,000; or
- Any misdemeanor or felony, “that includes specific probation lengths within its provisions.”
NOTE: That last exception would likely apply to DUI convictions because Vehicle Code Section 23600 specifically indicates that probation for a DUI is between three and five years.
When does AB 1950 take effect?
The changes made under AB 1950 will take effect as of January 1, 2021. This means if you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony on or after January 1, 2021, AB 1950 may effect your probation length.
Unfortunately, it is unclear whether the changes made by AB 1950 will retroactively apply to convictions prior to January 1, 2021. Therefore, if are convicted prior to January 1, 2021, you should ask your lawyer whether you are eligible to have your probation period reduced. Likewise, if you have an open case, you should talk to your lawyer about delaying your sentencing until after January 1, 2021 to take advantage of AB 1950.