Receiving a period of probationary supervision as part of your sentence may not be the best thing in the world, but it sure beats spending time in jail. Unfortunately, the restrictions and requirements involved in some kinds of probationary sentencing can be difficult to meet, even for the most well intentioned of offenders.
In theory, probation offers first-time and minor offenders a second chance. In the early days of probation, probationers were expected to behave in a morally acceptable fashion in addition to simply obeying the rule of law, and the best probation officers seek to provide moral leadership to help shape probationers’ attitudes and behavior with respect to socio-cultural values. Last, probationary periods give guilty parties the opportunity to prove themselves and, possibly, reduce their sentence.
Kevin Etherington, a criminal-defense attorney out of Guthrie, Okla., lists a few different kinds of probation on this blog, including suspended sentences, deferred adjudications and supervision. Regardless of the type of probation, violations of the terms outlined therein can result in some severe penalties: Etherington outlines potential penalties as follows:
When a probationer fails to abide by the rules and conditions set forth by the court the State can move to either revoke a suspended sentence or accelerate a deferred adjudication. Often this starts with the state filing an application with the court and an arrest warrant is issued. In Oklahoma a defendant has twenty days from the date of arraignment to have a hearing on the merits of his case or the application is dismissed. The right to a hearing within twenty days can be waived by the defendant. With a suspended sentence a defendant, if revoked, can be sentenced to serve the full amount of time the defendant originally pled to. A probationer if accelerated can be sentenced to serve the entire term of incarceration up to the maximum allowed by law even though the deferment period was for less time than the maximum allowed by law. Example: Crime carries a maximum of 5 years. Defendant gets 2 year deferred. Upon acceleration the defendant can receive up to 5 years in jail.
Common probationary terms include:
- Refraining from possessing firearms of any kind
- Remaining gainfully employed
- Adhering to a curfew
- Living at a directed place of residence
- Obeying the orders of a probation officer
- Remaining within the jurisdiction of where the sentence was delivered
- Refraining from contacting certain people (victims, former spouses, minors, known criminals, co-defendants)
- A ban on possession or use of alcohol even if alcohol was not involved in the original criminal charges
- Wearing an electronic tag or monitor) that signals your location to officials
- Alcohol and/or drug testing
- Alcohol and/or drug or psychological treatment
- Community service
If a violation is found, the severity of the penalties may depend upon the facts of the original offense, the facts of the violation, and the probationer’s criminal history. For example, if an offender is on probation for a gang-related offense, subsequent “association with known criminals” may be viewed as a more serious violation than if the person were on probation for driving a car with a suspended license. The reverse may be true if the initial offense were for driving under the influence. Similarly, penalties for violation may be greater if a subsequent offense is of greater severity (such as a felony following a misdemeanor) or if the original offense and subsequent offense are of the same type (such as a battery following an assault, or retail theft following retail theft).
If you find yourself in violation of your probation, you need to contact the Handley Law Center as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in further restrictions on your freedom or, even worse, serving time in jail.