Probation Do’s and Don’t’s
Many people end up on probation and of those who do each year, many have never been involved in the criminal justice system. I get a number of calls regarding probation revocations and have seen many get revoked for stupid, irresponsible behavior.
Sample case: Client comes to me with a new DWI. She had been a 4 year probation for a burglary in which she received deferred adjudication probation. Client was in early 20’s and was on the 6th year of the 4 year probation.That means if she completes probation successfully, there will be no conviction on her record. Client was in early 20’s and was on the 6th year of the 4 year probation. How does that happen? She needed to complete 40 hours of community service and did not so the judge extended probation for a year. After year 5, community service hours still not done, so he extends for a year. It was in year 6 that she was arrested for DWI. This case, by the way, was a felony. Client was in early 20’s. Full disclosure: I did not handle the revocation case. What happened is with the new arrest, the judge had enough and revoked the probation. All she had to do was 40 hours of community service and had 5+ years to do so. She didn’t and went to the state pen for a couple of years.
First thing, do your requirements and do them quickly. If you get a DWI, you have a DWI education class or DWI repeat offender class to complete if not your first conviction. If you get a theft conviction do the theft class early. Possession of a controlled substance or marijuana offenders have to take a class too. Do this immediately. And do the community service hours.
If there was a theft, there is generally restitution. Sometimes we see that with DWI as well if there is an accident. Pay restitution quickly. Courts usually give a lenient payment plan. Stick to it.
Pay the probation fees. This money goes to the county and pays the bills of the probation and many other departments. They may say the restitution is the more important fee. I beg to differ. Don’t fall behind.
Show up at probation meetings. This may seem like a no-brainer, but can be really difficult for some people and is a chief reason revocations are filed. If you have a work conflict, change things at work. Probation officers often think their meeting is the most important thing you are doing. Ask me about the probation officer that told a lady to leave chemotherapy and take a urine test because the urine test was more important.
If you meet with a different officer, get their card. All officers have cards. Take one and notate when the meeting with that officer took place.
Realize the probation officer is not there to make sure you complete probation. Divorce yourself from the idea that you are friends. You’re not. They are there to see IF you get through probation. If you don’t they will be trying to put you in jail.
Probably just a primer/tip of the iceberg list, but follow these tips and you will be on your way.