Is there a way to avoid a prison sentence for committing a crime? If you’ve been charged with a felony on your first offense, then you can enter a plea agreement and be considered for probation. This is referred to as felony probation, also referred to as formal or supervised probation. Although it is a popular alternative to prison, being placed on probation is still a punishment and requires a solid defense team.
Not all convicted felons are eligible to enter probation. Judges consider multiple factors before determining to place someone on probation rather than in prison because of a felony conviction. These include how serious your crime is, whether you were armed, the victim’s vulnerability, and the manner for which the crime was carried out. You may try to argue why you should have probation instead of incarceration, but expect the prosecuting team to provide counter-arguments.
If you’re eligible for probation and working with a criminal defense lawyer, you will need to meet with the prosecutor to discuss the terms of your plea bargain. Felony probation can last anywhere from three and five years. But before you say yes to the deal, you need to understand what being on probation means and doesn’t mean. Make sure to ask for your probation terms from your criminal attorney.
1 – Felony probation is not an escape from prison
You will be required to abide by your program strictly. If you deviate from the agreement, you can be taken in custody and get the maximum sentence for the crime for which you plead guilty.
One of the terms is that you must meet regularly with your probation officer. Probation officers are tasked with evaluating the performance and compliance of persons. If you don’t want to meet with your supervising officer in person, then you may be allowed to communicate via phone or video call provided that the formal probation officer declares you to comply.
2 – Probationary fees depend on your crime
Supervision during your probation period entails monthly costs. You need to consider this as an added expense to the fines on your crimes or your payment for restitution. People under probation pay differently depending on where they live and the nature of their crimes. Moreover, in Arizona, if you fail to pay on schedule, it will not be counted as a violation of probation. The court may issue a civil judgement and have the debt repaid through wage garnishment or other asset collection means.
3 – Formal probation restricts travel
Another condition you need to comply with is the travel ban out of your state. If you do need to go elsewhere, you must first notify your officer and get permission. In case you fail to observe this rule, it can be counted as a violation of your probation. Sometimes, you may find yourself needing to relocate to a new state due to employment or family concerns. When that happens, you will need to petition the court to transfer supervision to another jurisdiction and get your officer’s approval.
4 – Probations may have work requirements
The court can include in your papers that you must seek gainful employment while on probation. If you were unemployed at the time the offense was committed, then you need to demonstrate that you are actively searching for employment. This can prove challenging given your felony charges and record of probation. Aside from being employed, you will also have to render hours of service in the community and attend individual therapy or group therapy sessions.
5 – Probations involve house searches and drug tests
Your house can be searched by officers even without a warrant to check if you are in possession of illegal drugs or other substances. Aside from random checks on your home, you may also be subjected to random drug testing which you cannot refuse as part of the felony plea deal. Moreover, the probation status of individuals above 18 will remain private since officers are not allowed to discuss it with family, friends, or neighbours.
6 – Violating probation can send you to jail
When you violate one of your probation conditions, there are two general outcomes you can expect to face. First, you may have to serve the jail time sentenced by the judge that has been suspended when you agreed to be placed on a probationary period. If this does not apply to you, then the second outcome is that you will receive the maximum penalty for your conviction.
How long your imprisonment will depend on your state law. So it is always a good idea to consult with a criminal defense law firm to consider all of these factors before you accept an agreement. In Arizona, the following can be considered as violations of probation:
- Being convicted of another crime
- Avoiding drug testing or testing positive
- Consuming alcohol
- Communicating with someone you are not supposed to contact
- Skipping counseling sessions
- Failing to pay fines, fees, or restitution on time
- Not rendering your community service hours
- Removing security devices
- Not reporting to your probation officer or judge
- Failing to check in with the judge or probation officer
- Disobeying court orders
Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys at Snader Law Group
If you have been offered felony probation, you should take the time to consider all factors before signing the deal. Work with experienced defense lawyers to make sure that you don’t regret the next years of your life. If you are still hoping for formal probation, then you will need an aggressive attorney to defend your case.
Howard Snader is a criminal defense expert with a record of hundreds of cases defended. These include drug and driving offenses, aggravated assault, domestic violence, gun-related and sex crimes, child or internet pornography, internet pornography, among others. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.