Pitfalls of Probation: What You Need to Know Before You Sign Up
Sometimes, probation is a great offer on your case. If you are offered probation on a serious felony in which a long prison term is also an option under the law, you need to seriously consider taking it despite the multiple restrictions on your freedom you will experience.
However, on misdemeanors and state jail felonies, it’s a different story. You may be better off pleading to a short term in jail to finish the case. Or, in the alternative, if you are offered a reduction or a dismissal in exchange for doing something, like a class or a community service, you need to do it to avoid probation.
There are many, many pitfalls to probation. Many people approach probation as if it is an easy way to avoid jail or get out of jail quickly if you are in jail pretrial, but this is absolutely not the case and you need to rid yourself of this assumption. Probation is not easy and you have the threat of jail hanging over your head the entire time.
When you are on probation, you are seriously restricted in your freedom in many, many ways. You are given certain requirements and certain policies by which you must abide, and if you fail to do so your probation officer is going to file what is called a “motion to revoke probation”. Once this motion is filed, it will generate a warrant. You are usually given a no bond on that warrant, meaning you will not be allowed out on any type of bond. If a judge chooses to set a bond, it is really, really unlikely you will be allowed out of jail on a personal bond. If you cannot get a surety bond, you will be in jail until the motion to revoke probation is resolved.
I will discuss three common ways you might violate your probation:
- Committing a new offense: You will get a motion to revoke probation filed if you commit a new offense of a Class B misdemeanor or above. Do not think under any circumstances that your probation officer is “cool” and will not file a motion if you get arrested again. S/he will and you will go back to jail even if you are released on the new offense already. If you cannot make bond on the new offense, then you will be held on the motion to revoke and the new offense.
- Drug and alcohol use: It is absolutely a violation of your probation to use alcohol at all or any kind of illicit drug or prescription drug if it is not prescribed to you. If you go into a probation meeting looking like you are intoxicated or hung over, the probation officer is going to test you – and if you test positive s/he is going to file a motion to revoke. There is no room for just a single positive test.
- Absconding or missing meetings with no phone call or attempt to reschedule: missing meetings with your probation officer is not allowed. If you miss meetings and make no attempt to reschedule, you will get a motion to revoke filed.
I get many phone calls from people who want off probation and tell me that “they did not realize this is what they were getting into” when they pled to probation. I represent many clients on revocations of probation. Probation is not an easy path. Jail sounds like a terrible fate, but it is important to remember that you may go back to jail anyway if you are filed on for revocation.
If you are facing a probation revocation, call me today to talk about the possibilities of how to resolve your case.