Very often criminal case a resolved by a defendant waiving trial and other statutory and constitutional rights and being placed on probation. Of course, if you’ve never been found guilty of felony in any State or Federal court, you are almost always eligible to receive probation from a jury or judge if the sentence is 10 years or more.
Two Kinds of Probation – Regular / Straight Probation vs. Deferred Adjudication Probation
A judge or jury may sentence you to probation if you are found guilty or you plead guilty of a crime. Example: If you committed a third degree felony, which carries a sentence from 2 to 10 years, you may be sentenced to 3 years in prison or State Jail, yet be placed on probation for 5 years. This means that you will be required to report to a probation officer, usually monthly, and keep the rules of probation for 5 years.
The difference: Regarding Regular Probation or “Straight Probation”, if you violate the terms of your probation, the judge can send you to prison up to 3 years maximum. Yet, with Deferred Adjudication probation, the judge is not limited to 3 years, he/she can sentence you up to 10 years in prison.
Ok, why would you ever plead guilty and take Deferred Adjudication? It’s a “double edged sword”. Yes, regarding the above example, if you violate the rules of probation, the judge is not limited to the 3 years in prison and can give you up to 10 years, BUT if you successfully complete Deferred Adjudication Probation, you will not have a criminal conviction on your record since the judge deferred a finding of guilt and thus never found you guilty (unlike Regular Probation). Plus, you can ask the court to enter an Order of Non-Disclosure, which means you won’t have to disclose that you pleaded guilty. This is a great benefit as you apply for jobs and try to lease an apartment, etc. (Note: Deferred Adjudication Probation is not available for DWI offenses, and you cannot receive Deferred Adjudication Probation from a jury. You have to be qualified for probation and waive jury trial to have a chance of receiving it.)
During the probationary period, you may be required to keep the rules of probation which include: meeting regularly with your probation officer; fulfilling community service requirements; and perhaps pay a fine and other fees.
A judge may choose to place you on deferred adjudication if there is sufficient evidence to find you guilty. Instead of giving you a guilty verdict, the judge may decide to defer that verdict and place you on community supervision, i.e. probation. Once you serve your probation period and fulfill all of the requirements, you will never be found guilty of that crime that you were accused of. If you fail or violate your deferred adjudication, the judge can sentence you to any of the penalties within the range of punishment for your crime.
Here is a list of the common conditions of probation:
- Report once a month to a probation officer
- Not commit any further crimes during the term of probation;
- Pay a monthly supervisory fee to the probation office (usually $60.00);
- Perform a specified number of community service (volunteer) hours during the term of your probation (approximately 25 to 200 hours);
- If the offense was DWI, attend DWI education classes dealing with the effects of alcohol or listening to victims of DWI related tragedies;
- Abstain from consuming alcohol for the term of your probation;
- Pay your non-probated fines and court costs;
- Submit to a breath test by law enforcement or court personnel upon request;
- Make a small donation to crime prevention program;
- Remain within the county of your residence unless given permission by the probation officer or court to leave it;
- Other requirements the court sets depending on the nature of the criminal offense.
Probation Violations / Revocation
If your probation officer believes that you have violated the rules of probation, he/she can report this to the prosecuting attorney, who can file a motion with the court asking the court to send you to prison or add conditions to your probation and/or extend your probation to a longer term.
This is a big deal. You don’t have a right to jury, and the allegations of violations must only be proven at the lowest standard of proof (more likely than not) rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt”.