What are the Rules of Probation?

Probationers who do not follow all the rules of probation could wind up in jail.

In the United States, the first rules of probation emerged in Boston in the 1870s. Beginning in the 1830s, John Augustus, a local philanthropist, convinced Beantown judges to release criminal offenders, mostly “drunkards,” into his custody, so he could help them pull things together. As this practice became more widespread and courts took over the supervision, the nation’s first probation officer, Edward Savage (we’re not making this name up), was hired in Boston in 1878.

Today, probation is not limited to a few charity cases. Instead, most offenders, even those convicted of felonies with criminal records, receive probation. That is not because the state is merciful. That is because probation is much more cost-effective than incarceration. Since probation is so common, our Norcross criminal defense lawyers handle many probation revocation matters. Usually, we are able to successfully resolve these cases.

General Conditions

Everyone must abide by certain rules of probation. Picking up a new case, possessing a banned substance/failing a drug test, and failing to report to a supervision officer may be the most common reasons for a motion to revoke probation. If the judge grants this motion, the judge could sentence the defendant to prison per the original agreement.

Usually, our Norcross criminal defense attorneys negotiate fixed probation sentences, like 30/180. This abbreviation means 30 days in jail, probated for 180 days (six months).

Incidentally, if the defendant received deferred disposition probation violation, the stakes are higher. If the defendant violates probation, the judge could sentence the defendant to the legal maximum.

Attorneys have limited options if the probationer picks up a new case unless there is a very strong defense for that new case. Nevertheless, our attorneys are often able to negotiate better terms, like a lower prison sentence, an extension of the period of probation, or the imposition of additional rules of probation.

Possession/failing infractions are difficult to handle as well. Usually, prosecutors must only prove possession or failure by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If Jim is charged with DUI, the slightest Breathalyzer flaw could create reasonable doubt. If Jim fails an alcohol test while on probation, the test must be seriously messed up for an attorney to throw the results out of court.

Failure to report is just as serious as the first two infractions discussed above. However, probation officers are usually willing to give probationers a chance to make it up, especially if the probationer has a good record.

Offense-Specific Conditions

We mentioned DUI probation above. Alcohol tests are a common offense-specific condition in these cases, along with IID (ignition interlock device) installation. An IID, which some defendants call a “blow-and-go,” is a portable Breathalyzer that’s attached to the ignition. A failed IID test means the vehicle will not start or will not restart if it is in motion. Probationers must pay for all IID-related costs, and these costs add up.

Domestic assaults often include burdensome conditions as well, like a keep-away order. In many cases, this order requires a probationer to vacate a shared residence. This order could also require the probationer to move to another part of town or even another town altogether. Compliance with such an order could be expensive.

Generally, a failure to pay money, although it is a condition of probation, does not lead to a motion to revoke probation. Many judges feel that locking up probationers because they did not pay money makes the prison system an illegal debtor’s prison. That is especially true if the probationer owes money to an IID mechanic or another private party.

Work With a Diligent Gwinnett County Lawyer

Breaking the rules of probation could have serious consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Norcross, contact Zimmerman & Associates, Attorneys at Law.