Most felonies carry a range of sentences that may be imposed upon the defendant. For example, a defendant found guilty of an assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury (Penal Code section 245(a)(4)) can be punished with probation or up to 4 years in state prison. The type of sentence imposed is up to the judge's discretion.
Felony probation is generally a 3 or 5 year term where the defendant will serve the sentence outside of custody with a promise to abide by certain restrictive terms. Most terms of probation include obeying all laws, not to associate with any of the victims or co-defendants, not to possess any firearms or ammunition, report to the probation agency as directed, submit to blood and drug testing and pay all fines and fees. The court may also order certain rehabilitation classes depending on the circumstances of the offense.
Probation is generally the best possible sentence a defendant can get if found guilty of the felony offense since most felonies subject the defendant to serve a substantial amount of time in custody.
It's imperative to obey and comply with all the terms of the probation, otherwise a violation of probation can cause the judge to sentence you to the original offense with the time served in state or local custody. For example, if you are convicted of an assault (PC 245(a)(4)) and receive probation you will be expected to abide by it's terms. If you are found in violation the judge has the discretion to simply reinstate you in probation to complete probation, or he can sentence you up to the max of 4 years in state prison.
If you have been given probation as your sentence, be extremely careful to follow all laws and know exactly what is expected of you. Common violations of probation that we see include failing to report to probation, failing to notify probation of changes of address, failure to pay fines, driving while under the influence, driving on a suspended license and even being in possession of drugs, firearms or ammunition.
Probation is basically second chance to live right and start over, and the right attorney can fight for your rights and get you the best possible sentence. However It's up to you to ensure that you observe and obey all the terms of probation knowing that the slightest violation can send you in state prison.