By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Frequently, a probation officer (“PO”) in Collin County will present a probationer with proposed “sanctions” for alleged probation violations. Often the officer will request the probationer make up their mind on the spot – which prevents the probationer from truly making an informed decision.
The proposed sanction could include jail, taking new classes, and even extending probation. If the person turns down the sanction, then the probation officer threatens a motion to revoke probation or motion to adjudicate deferred adjudication.
These situations are like snow-flakes. No two are alike. Thus, you should always talk to a lawyer about your choices, and this blog (awesome as it may be) is really no substitute for case specific legal advice.
The best I can do is separate fact from fiction based on what I hear about the tactics some PO’s might use to get probationer to sign the sanctions, and what I know the law to be about revocations. I use the terms probation revocations and adjudication of deferred interchangibly:
- A probation officer can seek to have your probation revoked if you violate any term and condition of probation. They need the District Attorney’s Office to sign off — but this is just a formality.
- A probation revocation will trigger a warrant. You will be re-arrested. You are generally entitled to bond on misdemeanors but not always on felonies. If there is no pre-set bond, then you might have to wait in jail while one is set. This could take several days or several weeks.
- The vast majority of revocation proceedings result in plea bargains between prosecutors and your defense lawyer.
- If you have a contested hearing, the state has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you did violate probation at a hearing before the judge. Formal rules of evidence apply.
- Most revocations have multiple allegations of violations, and if you lose on any one of them your probation could be revoked or deferred adjudicated.
- If your probation is revoked then you can be punished as much as the underlying sentence will allow. If you were on deferred, then you’re subject to the maximum sentence range.
- The Judge is angry with you:
- Rarely does the judge know or care about your case if you’re just having problems with your probation officer. Collin County Judges have hundreds if not thousands of cases at one time — so your case is not as special as you think. Some judges are very “hands-on” with probationers but most would consider an every-day dispute between a probationer and a PO as a waste of their time. This obviously changes if you face revocation proceedings.
- You Will Definitely be Revoked/ Adjudicated
- POs often bluff. They do not seek to revoke probation on every instance where they offer sanctions.
- You Will Have to Explain Your Refusal of the Sanctions to the Judge
- If you say no to the proposed sanction you are not necessarily going to have a hearing with the Judge. The paperwork and the PO might say if you say no to the sanction you are requesting a hearing with the judge — but the reality is the PO is the one requesting it and they rarely follow through. This is more often than not used as a threat to bully someone to accept sanctions.
- You Will Get the Max (or Lengthy) Jail Sentence if You Say No
- You won’t get punished for saying no to your PO. This is normally an idol and unsubstantiated threat. Think about it… if your PO really thought you should get a maximum sentence — then why are the offering not only to keep you on probation but not even revoke you in the first place?
- The PO Will Make Sure You Get a Stiff Penalty if you Say No
- Your probation officer has very little to do with process after the motion to revoke is filed. They don’t go to your court dates and they don’t normally have a close relationship with the prosecutor. The PO might testify if the case is ultimately contested but this is rare. The PO typically writes a recommendation but this recommendation is not binding on anyone.
Can I Get Out of Sanctions if I already Signed Them?
Yes, it is possible. You need a lawyer and you need to file a request with the Judge to abate (pause) or undo the sanction. The sanction can be analogized to a contract. Most contracts can’t be executed under duress or stress. Where a sanction was signed under threats of jail or worse — an argument can be made the consent was invalid.
The Bottom Line About Sanctions
Sometimes they make sense and you should seriously consider accepting them. Don’t do so without a lawyer, though. We can tell you what your alternative looks like and this will allow you to make an informed decision and you will know whether you have been offered a fair deal or not by your PO. Your PO is likely an honest, hard working person but they do not know the court system, the laws, and the likely outcomes nearly as well as your lawyer will.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For legal advice you should consult an attorney directly.