What is probation?
Probation is an alternative to incarceration and consists of a period of supervision by a probation officer which could last anywhere from a few months to many years.
While on probation, the probationer will be required to report to the probation officer, pay probation fees, and not otherwise violate the law. Probationers must be employed, seeking employment or in school and probation officers will often contact your employer to make sure they are aware of your probation status. Probationers are not permitted to have firearms or other weapons while on probation. Probationers must permit probation officers to visit them at their home and must remain within the county at all times while on probation. If a probationer wants to leave the county, they will have to get permission from their probation officer, and sometimes, from the judge. Probationers are required to support their dependants to the best of their ability, pay costs and fees, not associate with others engaged in criminal activities, and submit to random drug testing.
In addition to the standard conditions of probation, the judge may add other “special” conditions that you must complete. For example, the judge may require community service hours, antitheft classes, drug treatment, restitution payments, or a variety of other things he or she deems necessary.
If you violate your probation, either by not doing something you were supposed to do or by doing something you weren’t supposed to do, the probation officer will file a violation of probation affidavit. In most cases, this will result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest. When you are arrested for violating your probation, you will NOT receive a bond. While the judge has the discretion, in most cases, to give you a bond, it is not required. The likelihood of receiving a bond when you are alleged to have violated your probation is very small. Most probation violators must fight their case while incarcerated.
If you violate your probation, you will be entitled to a hearing at which the judge will determine whether you violated your probation. The burden will be on the government to prove the alleged violation with actual evidence. While the amount of evidence the government will need to prove the violation is significantly less than that which they would need to prove you guilty of a new crime in front of a jury (preponderance of the evidence versus beyond a reasonable doubt), failure to prove the violation will result in your release from custody and your continued supervision through the end of your term of probation. On the other hand, if the government can prove the violation, the judge will determine your punishment. That punishment could consist of anything from continuing on probation to incarceration for an amount of time up to the maximum for the crime for which you were found guilty.
Many people consider probation to be nothing more than a set up for your eventual prison sentence. While it is not impossible to complete probation successfully, it is certainly not easy. While on probation, you are basically living in a glass house at all times. If you are not well-funded, organized, and responsible, it is easy to find yourself in jail because you failed to complete some term of the probation.
If you are placed on probation, it is a good idea to document everything you do to complete the terms of your probation. For example, if you pay a fine, keep a copy of the receipt in your own file. If you complete an antitheft class or drug treatment, keep a copy of the certificate in your file. Also, make sure someone you trust knows where you keep that file. That way, when the probation officer alleges you violated your probation, you can tell that person to bring the file to your criminal defense lawyer so he or she can prove you actually completed the condition.
If you want more information about probation in Florida, check out Florida Statutes, Chapter 948. If you are seeking representation for a violation of probation, or if you want to attempt to modify your probation, consider hiring Scott Berry Law.