What is Probation?
When a person is convicted of a crime, the two most common things that happens to them is that they’re either incarcerated or they’re put on probation. Probation is considered to be an alternative to being incarcerated, and that’s why you’ll hear a sentence described as “365 days, all suspended, with 365 days to be served on probation.” To translate that, it means that the sentence is 365 days in jail, but all of that time is being suspended so long as the defendant successfully completes a term of 365 days on probation.
When a Court sentences a person to probation, there are generally a couple of automatic rules that are consistent with all probations. First, a person on probation can’t commit any crimes. Second, a person on probation can’t consume drugs or alcohol without a valid prescription. Third, a person on probation is subject to random drug screenings. And fourth, a person on probation needs to meet with his probation officer whenever directed to. Depending on the specific type of offense, the Court can also order special terms of probation that can vary between cases. For example, any case involving drugs or alcohol can require a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and cases involving violent behavior can require anger management classes.
If you’re found to have violated your probation, the Court can do one of three things: absolutely nothing, change or modify the terms of your probation, which can include extending your probation, or revoking your probation and ordering you to serve a part of or all of your suspended sentence behind bars. An important thing to remember about probation is that the time you spend on probation doesn’t subtract from your sentence day-for-day. This means that if you have a suspended sentence of 365 days and you violate your probation on Day 364, the Court can order you back to jail for a full year. Probation violation trials are handled very differently than normal cases, too. While you still enjoy a presumption of innocence in a probation violation, the State only needs to prove that you violated by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a much lower burden than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The rules of evidence, especially with regards to hearsay, are MUCH more relaxed, and you’re not entitled to a bond. This means that you can be legally held in jail until your probation violation is resolved.
A lot of people think that probation is designed to make them fail, but the reality is that probation is only as hard on a person as they make it on themselves. Not breaking the law is a pretty easy goal to have, and if you can’t stay away from drugs or alcohol for a full year you may have a problem that needs to be addressed by a doctor. And while meeting with your probation officer can be inconvenient, most probation officers don’t have the time or interest in seeing you more than once per month unless you give them a reason to believe that you’re going to be a problem. None of this is to say that probation is any fun; far from it. Probation is an expensive punishment. The basic fees for being on probation can be up to $30 per month, plus at least one drug test per month at a rate of $14 per test. If there are any special classes that you need to take, those classes can cost up to $50 per class. The expense involved in being on probation is one of several reasons to speak with a qualified attorney about your case. We may not be able to make ALL of the costs of being on probation go away, but we may be able to reduce those costs, or get you a more favorable probation than you might have been able to get if you resolved your case without an attorney.
At Razumich & Associates, our goal is to make sure that each of our clients receives the personalized attention that their cases deserve so that they can make the best possible decisions on important matters affecting their future. We personally meet with everyone who sets an appointment with our office, and we will take as long as necessary to make sure that every question you have is answered as completely as possible. That’s our promise to you: we’re Lawyers Ready to Fight, and we look forward to fighting for you.