After being convicted of a criminal offense in Florida, your sentence may include incarceration. Whether you are sentenced to jail or prison depends on whether you’re convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense. With either type of charge, the court may sentence you to probation in place of incarceration.
Probation is an alternative form of punishment that allows offenders to remain in society and stay out of overcrowded jails and prisons. Offenders can keep most of their freedoms so long as they meet the strict requirements the judge orders. The court orders supervision to ensure that offenders abide by the conditions of probation. An offender who violates any of the terms of probation may face additional penalties and consequences.
If you’re charged with an offense and face the possibility of being convicted, talk to a criminal defense attorney to find out whether you may be eligible for probation. Here are some of the main concepts you should know about how probation works in Florida.
Probation May Be Terminated If You Violate Any of the Terms
There are many ways to violate the terms of your probation besides committing an offense. Following the strict requirements often proves to be a challenge for offenders. Some of the most common terms of misdemeanor and felony probation include:
- Reporting to a probation officer each month
- Paying court costs and restitution
- Completing drug treatment
- Attending mandatory counseling
- Abstaining from committing new crimes
- Reporting any interaction with law enforcement to the court
- Abiding by curfews
- Remaining in your residence and home county, unless you obtain written permission from your probation officer
Breaking the terms of your probation may lead to a charge of Violation of Probation, for which the judge may order stricter conditions, lengthen your probation period, or take you off of probation entirely and sentence you to jail or prison. So, even if you don’t commit a new offense, forgetting to comply with your probation requirements could send you to jail or prison.
You Do Not Have the Right to a Jury Trial for a Probation Violation
If you’re on felony probation and your probation officer discovers you have violated any of the conditions, he will report the violation(s) to the court. If you’re on misdemeanor probation, you will not report to a probation officer. However, the court may still find out about a violation. In either scenario, you will be summoned to appear in court. At the hearing, you will need to admit or deny the allegation of your probation violation. Jury trials are not conducted for violation of probation charges, and the prosecutor does not have to prove that you violated your probation beyond a reasonable doubt but rather by a preponderance of the evidence.
You Don’t Always Need to Meet Your Probation Officer in Person
Most people are familiar with the concept of meeting with a probation officer. The court will assign you a probation officer if you were sentenced to felony probation. Your meetings with your officer are mandatory; however, they are not always required to take place face-to-face. After the first few meetings, your probation officer has the discretion to conduct meetings virtually or over the phone. During this pandemic, it is possible that more probation meetings will take place remotely.
Court-Ordered Supervision Will Cost You…Literally
If you are sentenced to probation, you must be supervised. It may seem like the costs associated with this service will be covered by the courts since they sentenced you to probation, but that’s not the case. You will be required to pay for your own supervision for the duration of your probation period. Failure to pay for supervision may be considered a violation of probation. Your probation costs will be in addition to any other fines and fees the court imposes as part of your sentence.
You May Be Required to Have a Job
For many offenders placed on probation, the court may require them to keep or find a job. This may be challenging to achieve after a conviction. However, your probation officer may be responsible for ensuring that you’re actively searching for employment. It is up to their discretion to determine whether your efforts to find employment fulfill this condition of probation.
Probation Is Tough, But It Beats Incarceration
Completing a criminal sentence is never easy. Although probation has its drawbacks, it is generally preferable to incarceration. With the help of a determined criminal defense lawyer, it may be possible to receive probation in place of jail or prison for a misdemeanor or felony offense. Talk to attorney Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel to learn what you can expect when fighting your criminal charges in West Palm Beach.
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