Tuesday, July 5, 2022

How to handle Probation

Most criminal cases do not go to trial.  They resolve via plea agreements often including probation.  Probation offers defendants a chance to avoid worse things like jail, and the "justice system" a chance to save resources.

Probation typically includes terms and conditions suited to the offenses involved - a drug or alcohol case will include treatment and testing (monitored sobriety), therapy in a domestic violence case, anger management classes in an assault case etc. - and more general terms like restitution (paying back for money damages caused), maintaining stable employment/school and a residence, staying out of trouble etc.

Probation terms and conditions have increased over the years (probably because it is an industry itself).  Those terms and conditions can seem daunting, overwhelming, impossible, scary.  How should you handle it?  

The answer is simple:  Don't fight it.  The more you (appear) to push back, the tougher probation becomes.  "Thank you sir may I have another" should be your mindset.  Always be nice.  Be polite.  Smile.  The quicker your overworked and probably underprepared probation officer concludes you are not a problem, the quicker they focus on someone who is, and the sooner your case's level of intensity and scrutiny will drop off to near zero.  Plus, maybe you'll learn something along the way.

And those scary terms like possible surprise visits from your probation officer, random searches, not being able to leave the state etc. etc.?  They rarely happen.  Most alleged probation violations are failure to complete classes or treatment in time, or (surprise) pay fees or costs on time, or (duh) getting in trouble again including positive drug /alcohol tests.  Otherwise, the forms accompanying probation contain way more bark than bite.

Failing to keep in touch with your probation officer, or missing appointments or check-ins with them, is another popular (and dumb) way to violate probation.  Granted, this seems often as much fault of the overly bureaucratic probation department as the defendant.  Avoid this in any event by keeping track of when your appointments etc. are and not missing them.  Keep a record of your attempts to contact your probation officer (emails are a great way to do this; text messages are not).  Being able to show your repeated and timely positive effort and attempts to meet or reschedule or show up or call the probation department or your officer can minimize trouble.

Probation is not as bad as it first seems, and usually better than the alternative.  Proceed accordingly.