Will a traffic ticket violate my probation?

When you’re placed on probation – either formal or informal, one of the typical terms is that you “violate no law”.  People often ask whether a traffic ticket will violate your probation.


In general, a traffic ticket will NOT violate your probation.

Under Penal Code section 19.8, an infraction is not grounds to violate your probation or parole.  There are a few exceptions though.  If your citation involved any of the following offenses, it could be the basis to violate your probation or parole:

Business & Professions (BP) Code 25658 – furnishing alcohol to a minor

BP 25658.5 – minor attempting to purchase alcohol

BP 25661 or 25662 - use of a fake ID to get alcohol or Minor in possession of alcohol “MIP”

Any drug charges under the Health & Safety Code

Vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code 191.5 or 192.5

Public intoxication (“Drunk in public”) under Penal Code 647(f)

Reckless driving under Vehicle Code 23103

“Wet reckless” under Vehicle Code 23103.5

Under 21 driving with 0.05% blood alcohol level under Vehicle Code 23140

and driving on a suspended license under Vehicle Code 14601.1


Even though those offenses are infractions, they are the exception and they can be used for the court to find you in violation of your probation.  If you’re on probation and get cited for any of those offenses, in addition to the punishment for the new ticket, you could also be in violation of your probation.  Any violation potentially subjects you to additional punishment for not following the terms of your probation.  If you are found in violation, the judge could sentence you up to the maximum for the original case.

To discuss your case, give me a call or send an email:

Joe Dane



What is summary (or informal) probation?

If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor in Orange County, you may be placed on a period of probation.  Typically, for misdemeanor probation, it is informal probation.  This is sometimes called “summary probation” or “bench probation”.

How does informal probation differ from formal probation?

Formal probation

With formal probation, you typically have a probation officer you must report to.  Sometimes, there are phone reporting requirements (you must call on a set schedule to check in with them) or kiosk check-ins where you have to sign into their computer system to “check in”.  On formal probation, there may be a probation officer assigned and if you’re subject to search and seizure, they can come out and do a random probation compliance check and search all your belongings and your house.  There is also a cost of formal probation – you have to pay to be supervised.

Informal probation

I always explain that informal probation is kind of like the honor system.  When you’re sentenced to informal probation, the judge will impose several terms and conditions of your probation.  They may include things like “violate no law”, fines and fees that you have to pay to the court, community service or CalTrans or classes you must attend.  As long as you complete those things and stay out of trouble, your probation just goes along without a problem.  Informal probation only becomes a problem if you fail to complete something you were ordered to do or if you pick up a new case.

For example, if you were ordered to do 80 hours of community service, but either didn’t go sign up for the community service to begin with or you didn’t complete the number of hours you were required to do by the deadline, the community service office will notify the court of your issue and it’s likely a warrant will be issued for your arrest for failing to comply with the terms of your probation.  A misdemeanor probation violation warrant is usually issued for $15,000.

If you do all the things you’re supposed to do and you stay out of trouble, your probation will automatically expire and terminate without you having to do anything.  A reason it wouldn’t is if you failed to complete something and the court revoked your probation prior to it expiring.

How long does probation last?

Typically, probation is for three years.  In some cases, we can work out a “terminal disposition” meaning there would be no probation after the conclusion of the case.  Other times, a shorter term of probation can be negotiated (typically a year or 18 months).  In still other cases, it may start off as three years of probation with an agreement that either after a certain period of time or after you’ve completed something (community service, etc.) you can get your probation terminated and over.

If you have questions about terminating your probation, dismissing (“expunging”) your convictions or if there’s a warrant for your arrest for violating probation in Orange County, give me a call or send an email.

Joe Dane




See also:  Will a traffic ticket infraction violate my probation?

Can two people use the same defense attorney?

What if you and a friend (or husband/wife) got arrested together and charged with the same crime?  Can you use the same defense attorney to represent both of you?


The short answer is “maybe”.

If there is no overlap (such as you blame him and he blames you), one attorney *may* be able to represent you both. You’ll need to discuss it with the attorney you select and will need a written waiver of conflict signed by all.

Where this gets tricky is if there is even the potential of a conflict of interest.  If the two of you either have different charges, if one made a statement and the other didn’t (especially if one defendant implicates the other), then one attorney probably cannot represent both people.  How could one attorney effectively represent one defendant to the fullest if it meant a worse outcome for the other?

If there is no conflict, you’re still probably better off with your own lawyer.


Let’s look at a criminal prosecution. It’s the police department (and all their resources) that investigate.  They forward the case to the District Attorney’s office.  If charges are filed, it’s now the DA’s office (and all THEIR resources too) against you.  Why not do everything you can to level the playing field?  Even if two defendants have the same defense, sometimes it’s very, very advantageous to have two defense attorneys.  That means two lawyers examining the prosecution’s case for weaknesses.  Two lawyers to strategize on your defense.  If the case proceeds to trial, it’s two cross examinations of every witness.  Two closing arguments.  Two, two, two.  Why not double the defense?

To discuss your case (or you and your co-defendant’s), give me a call or send an email.

Joe Dane



Arrested in Orange County – why am I getting letters from lawyers?

What you’re getting is commonly referred to as “jail mail.”

Unfortunately, you got arrested and either got released with a court date coming up or you posted bail with a date to appear in the future.  Now, your mailbox is flooded with letters from lawyers and law firms.

That “jail mail” comes from attorneys that subscribe to services that comb arrest records. Those services sell the lists of people arrested so the attorneys can send those lovely letters you’re getting. There have been case decisions dealing with jail mail… attorneys are allowed to do exactly what they’re doing. It has been viewed by the courts as protected speech and an approved of method of advertising for law firms in California.  Lawyers (or their staff or a service for a fee will stuff envelopes and send out letters to everybody arrested in Orange County.  Some focus on only DUI arrests, some focus on domestic violence and others send letters to everybody.
You’ve probably seen all sorts of flyers, letters and even coupons.  I’ve seen them ranging from sympathetic sounding to fire and brimstone – promising gloom and doom, not to mention a lengthy jail sentence unless you hire them immediately.  They probably range from local attorneys to large firms that will try to land business, then farm out the work to a local attorney.  I can only assume that they’re sent in a flood, hoping to get to you before you hire an attorney.

Can you stop the letters from coming?

By the time you get the first letter, it’s too late.  You know your information has been gathered by the service and distributed to the lawyers that subscribe to their lists.  They’re all going to send them as quickly as possible (typically within the first 2-3 days).

But what if you’re trying to keep your legal troubles private or secret?  The letters are going to be sent to whatever address is listed as your home address during booking.  As far as I know, the subscription services and the lawyers that utilize them don’t have any sort of screening mechanism and simply send out the letters to whoever fits their criteria.  It could have the unfortunate effect of alerting family, roommates or even neighbors (in the case of misdirected mail) that you are now getting letters from defense attorneys.  The only way to head it off is to be the one that gathers the mail for the week following your arrest.  Not practical for most people, I know.

Sorry – with any luck, they’ll taper off and stop shortly.

And no, you didn’t get a single letter from my office.  If you do want to talk about your case, give me a call or send an email.

Joe Dane



Caught shoplifting – police weren’t called. Will I face charges? Fines?

I get lots of questions about shoplifting incidents.  Many times, the question is:  ”I was detained by store personnel for shoplifting, but the police weren’t called.  They made me sign some papers and let me go, telling me I would have to pay a fine.  What is going to happen?”

Are the police going to be called?

If the police were not called the day of the incident, the odds are overwhelming that they won’t be involved and there will be no criminal prosecution. Could it happen? Yes, but that is exceedingly rare.

What is the “fine” they’re talking about?

The “fine” you’re talking about is a civil demand letter. The merchant is authorized under Penal Code section 490.5 to “demand” up to $500 in civil penalties following an allegation of shoplifting. You’ll likely get a letter either from the store’s legal department or from a law firm acting on behalf of the store. The letter will sound very intimidating and they will indicate that unless you pay them the hundreds of dollars they’re asking for, they will “pursue all legal remedies under the law” (or other official sounding language).

If you choose to pay them, it just means they won’t sue you in small claims. It won’t stop a criminal case (if there was going to be one).

If you choose to ignore the letter (and the two or three that may follow), they have a choice – either let it go or sue you in small claims.

The odds are overwhelming that they will just let it go. Why? Because it’s not worth their time. I assume they recovered the items you’re accused of taking and put them right back on the shelf for sale. Yes, they had their personnel deal with you for a period of time, but the time they put on this case isn’t worth the hundreds of dollars they are trying to get you to pay.

Why else won’t they pursue this in small claims? Because lawyers cannot get involved in small claims. They would have to file a lawsuit, serve you with a notice to appear and then send somebody from the store down to testify about what happened. Way too much work for the recovery they may get in small claims (not to mention trying to collect, etc.).

There’s one firm in Florida that was quoted in the Wall Street Journal – their practice is almost exclusively these “civil demand letters”. They send out about a 1.5 million letters per year. Of those million and a half cases, they file an actual lawsuit in court about 10 times. Not ten percent. Not ten thousand. Ten.

The odds are overwhelming that if you ignore the letter(s), they’ll eventually go away.

There’s another firm that promises the merchants they contract with a “litigation-free experience”. That’s code for “this won’t actually end up in court.”

The other document you signed is likely a trespass warning. Essentially, they’re saying you’re not welcome in the store any longer. If you go back, even to spend a thousand dollars on a shopping spree, you could be arrested for trespassing and face misdemeanor charges. I don’t know if the form indicates you’re not welcome for a year, three years or life (I’ve seen different time periods for different stores), but you’d be wise to shop elsewhere.

Watch your mail – if you do receive something either from the police or the court (or prosecutor’s office) regarding this, then it’s time for a good, local criminal defense attorney. Until then, stay away from the store, don’t discuss this matter with anyone and chalk this up to experience.


If the police were involved, you got a citation (ticket) or a letter from the prosecutor’s office – that you cannot ignore.  You’re potentially facing theft charges in court that can have serious consequences on your future.  If that happened, it’s definitely time for a lawyer.  Give me a call or send an email to discuss your situation.


Joe Dane, Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney