What probation means is that in lieu of going into custody, the potential maximum sentence is being suspended so that you can stay out of custody. Let’s say you are sentenced for a DUI, and it included two days at the county jail, to be served through the Sherriff’s Work Alternative Program. A first DUI offense has a maximum of 180 days in custody, and you were sentenced to two. You served one day, on the day that you were arrested, and the other one you just cleaned up on the side of the road. So now, there are 178 days hanging above your head that you could potentially have served in custody. (180 Possible – 2 Served =178 Remaining).
However, pursuant to your negotiated disposition, you were granted probation. You were given certain conditions to meet, and so long as you comply with those conditions, you will never have to serve those 178 days in custody – but if for some reason you violate your probation, meaning you are caught drinking or driving again, or you get arrested for some other offense, or you refused a chemical test, or you don’t do your DUI school, or you don’t serve the second day that was ordered for you to serve, etc. your probation will be violated and you can be sentenced up to the remaining 178 days in custody. Typically, you’ll be sentenced in increments, 10 days here, 30 days there, 45 the next time. The punishment for violations will incrementally increase so that they can continue having a balance of time hanging over your head through the duration of your probation just in case you get caught slipping.