Florida Probation Questions and Answers
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Q1. What do I have to do while on probation?
A1. A person placed on probation (or community control, see below) is required to abide by specific conditions. These are split up into two categories, "general conditions" and "special conditions" of probation (or community control). Your probation officer will go over these conditions usually at the first meeting you have with him or her. The "conditions" are very important because if you fail to abide by them you can be found to have violated your probation. If you are unsure what conditions you have - ask your probation officer to provide you with them.
The main disruption to your life on probation are:
Monthly meetings with your probation officer.
Unscheduled visits by your probation officer at your home and/or work address.
Restrictions on travel (typically you cannot travel out of the county where you reside without permission).
Completion of all special conditions of probation.
Q2. What are general conditions of probation?
A2. General Conditions of Probation are statutory. These conditions did not have to be verbalized to you by the judge when he or she sentenced you. However, your probation office will go over these with you typically at your first meeting with him or her. Because probation officers have large caseloads they may provide you with a list of these conditions - YOU MUST READ AND ABIDE BY THE GENERAL CONDITIONS OF PROBATION. It is your responsibility to avoid violating your probation.
There is one general condition of probation that is not listed in the statutes. This is the general condition that you do not commit any violation of law. This seems obvious but, just so you know, if your are arrested or accused of committing a new law offense your probation will be violated 99.9% of the time. However, do not panic. If arrested contact your probation officer as soon as possible and tell your supervising officer what happened. If you bond out on the new offense you MUST continue to report to probation.
Q3. What are special conditions of probation?
A3. Special Conditions of Probation are those that are verbalized by the judge at your sentencing. These include the requirement that you pay a fine, complete so-many hours of community service, attend a counseling program, and so on. It can include restrictions on where you can go and/or with who you can communicate. Special conditions can be almost anything that can be viewed as logically connected to the offense committed.
Q4. What is the purpose of probation?
A4. Under Florida law a judge is restricted in sentencing options to (1) incarceration and/or (2) fines. Under these options a judge must adjudicate you guilty (this means you are convicted). Probation is actually an alternative to sentencing. Often times it is described as a "sentence" however it is not. A sentence is actually withheld in lieu of you successfully completing your term of probation. That is why if you violate probation you again face the maximum incarceration or fine for that offense (because technically you were never sentenced). By withholding a sentence a judge may also withhold the adjudication of guilt and thereby not convict you of the offense. This is very important if you want to be able to seal your record after probation is completed.
Q5. Do I have to complete the entire term of probation that the judge puts me on or can it be shortened?
A5. This answer varies. Most judges will require that you complete at least half of your original term of probation before they will consider terminating the remainder of your probation. In addition, all your special conditions must have been completed or fulfilled.
However, some jurisdictions believe that once ordered the term cannot be shortened. This is based on a District Court decision that deals with a negotiated plea with the Office of the State Attorney. Negotiated pleas are different and there is a legitimate argument that a motion to terminate probation early be accompanied with a declaration that the State does not object.
Negotiated pleas, under certain conditions, should include the ability to terminate the probation period early if all conditions have been met.
Q6. Do I need an attorney to shorten the length of my probation?
A6. The correct answer is "no." However, without a lawyer you'll be wasting valuable time trying to figure out what needs to be put in your motion and how to schedule the hearing. Everyone is allowed to represent themselves under the law but it not usually the best idea.
Q7. I violated my probation. Now what happens?
A7. A violation is reported to the judge by the probation officer in the form of an affidavit. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the judge has the discretion to issue a warrant for arrest or dismiss the violation. Upon issuance of the warrant your term of probation is tolled. You will either be arrested or, in some misdemeanor cases, be required to turn yourself into the county jail. Felony violations of probation usually have a no-bond status. Therefore your attorney will have to set a bond hearing immediately. At this hearing most cases will be resolved. If not resolved then the case will be set for a violation hearing. At the hearing the judge will determine if you have violated your probation.
Q8. Can I bond out after I am arrested for a violation of probation?
A8. Many people believe the answer is "no." They are correct more than half the time. However, the other times a bond may be granted. These are usually non-violent offenders that have few if any priors and/or the facts of the case are not that bad.
It is always worth trying to obtain a bond except under the most extreme cases. We don't charge extra for a bond hearing if we represent you on the violation.
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