Probation is a type of legal supervision that is imposed by the court. An individual can be sentenced to probation instead of being giving jail time, or be given probation following a jail or prison term.
Who Can Get Probation?
Probation may be an option for individuals charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Who gets probation is determined during the sentencing phase of a trial or during the negotiation process of a plea deal.
The likelihood of someone getting probation may be affected by the crime with which they are charged. During sentencing, the court can determine whether probation is a good fit under the law and for the situation at hand. According to Florida Statute § 948.011:
“When the law authorizes the placing of a defendant on probation, and when the defendant’s offense is punishable by both fine and imprisonment, the trial court may, in its discretion, impose a fine upon him or her and place him or her on probation or into community control as an alternative to imprisonment.”
What Are the Different Types of Probation?
In addition to determining whether someone will be sentenced to probation, the legal system also determines which type of probation they will be subject to.
Standard Probation: Individuals sentenced to standard probation must report regularly to their probation officer and abide by the terms of their probation.
Administrative Probation: Also known as non-reporting probation, administrative probation is like standard probation though the individual does not need to meet with a probation officer. This is the most lenient type of probation.
Drug Offender Probation: Individuals convicted of a drug crime may be sentenced to drug offender probation, which includes attendance of a substance abuse program and the administration of random drug tests.
Sex Offender Probation: Individuals who have been convicted of a sex offense can be sentenced to undergo a treatment program while also being supervised by a probation officer.
House Arrest: Also known as “community control,” house arrest requires constant surveillance and limitations around movement. An individual’s whereabouts are constantly being monitored to ensure they do not leave their prescribed areas. While very restrictive, it is often considered better than imprisonment.
Are Parole and Probation the Same Thing?
No, parole and probation are different. Parole is the early release of an individual from jail or prison, probation is a type of supervision of activities and movements. Probation, while less strict than incarceration, is still a legal punishment for wrongdoing. Individuals who are paroled, however, may be placed on probation as a term of their release, however, it is not a general requirement.
What Can You Do on Probation?
When on probation, you can maintain a job and even do things like go out to the movies, as long as you follow the terms of your probation. Depending on the type of probation, you can lead a pretty normal life, albeit with more court dates and meetings.
Individuals on house arrest are most severely limited in their activities and must get approval to go to certain places beyond home and work, though they can have individuals come to their home.
What Happens if You Violate Probation?
If you violate probation, you may be arrested, or a warrant may be issued for your arrest. Violating probation is a serious offense, and defending against such a charge is crucial. Make sure to secure a knowledgeable Tampa defense attorney to help you.
Going to court because of a probation violation is much different than for a criminal trial. For one, there is no jury. Instead, you’ll need to convince a judge that you did not knowingly or willingly violate your probation and do so with a compelling legal argument (not a story).
The court will then determine whether you should be allowed to continue on probation or be remanded back to jail. What happens will depend on the original crime you were convicted of, the severity of the probation violation, and whether you have representation to help protect your rights.
What Counts as a Florida Probation Violation?
Probation terms clearly state what is and isn’t allowed during an individual’s probation period. This often includes limits on where an individual can go (for example, sex offenders must steer clear of schools, addicts may need to avoid places where they used to purchase drugs) and what they can do (may need to attend meetings, participate in community service).
Failing to attend required meetings with a probation officer, being in possession of a banned substance or firearm, or using a banned substance may be considered probation violations depending on the terms of your probation. If you are on probation, make sure you understand what you are and are not permitted to do to avoid violating probation and potentially ending up in jail.
What if You Violate Probation Unknowingly?
Because certain types of probation allow for some freedom, there’s a chance that an individual on probation may encounter a situation that can be considered a violation. For example, if an individual is supposed to avoid being around certain substances or firearms and someone else brings said prohibited item to their location or home. While the individual on probation should remove themselves from the situation if they become aware of the violation, it is possible to argue that probation was violated unknowingly if that was the case.
How to Get Off Probation Early in Florida
It is possible to get off probation early as long as you follow the terms of your probation, pay any fines and fees, and complete at least half of the time you were sentenced to. To do so, you will need to file a Motion for Early Termination of Probation. It’s generally best to have a skilled defense lawyer do this for you to make sure it is done properly and that you meet all the requirements. If you’re interested in having your Florida probation terminated, make sure you’ve covered any fines and fees and that you’ve completed any treatment programs or community service before applying.
For more information about Florida probation, speak to a Tampa defense lawyer.