Who Decides If A Criminal Should Receive Probation?

Most anyone who finds himself or herself a victim of the criminal justice system for the first time won’t understand the nuance of what’s happening — and certainly, he or she will not know if justice has been done the way it was supposed to. For example, there’s a very specific system in place to determine whether or not a person should be put on probation as an alternative to long-term incarceration.

Corrections officials play a key role in this process. This type of officer will dive into an offender’s background, history, and individual circumstances surrounding the accused’s crime. A report is filed with the court system, after which a judge will make the decision about whether or not the details are suitable for a probation sentence. The judge makes this decision based on the nature of the crime, the likelihood of reoffending, and the report. 

The very nature of the work done by a probation officer makes the opportunity for corrupt activity simple. If the subject of probation and probation officer tell two different stories, who does the court listen to with a vested interest? The probation officer, of course. It’s the sole discretion of this officer to determine whether or not a subject on probation should be placed behind bars for allegedly reoffending. But what if the probation officer lied?

It’s a difficult situation for a former convict. The simplest thing to do when you feel like the world is out to get you is call a lawyer. It might be difficult to prove that a case has merit once probation is ordered, but you can still ask for a hearing to discuss the conduct of a probation officer.

That said, a violation of probation by the offender is statistically more likely. Penalties for violating probation might include hefty fines or additional jail time.

Should Capital Punishment End?

In most developed countries, the death penalty no longer exists as a response to violent crime. And that makes sense. Why would a civilized society put anyone to death? The most popular argument in favor of the death penalty is a simple one: it brings the families of victims closure. Great. But the violent offender probably found joy in committing the crime. Why is it any better than the families of victims find joy in an execution?

It might sound cold, but civilization runs smoothly when we separate ourselves from the animals. When we resort to our baser instincts, things tend to run far less smoothly.

Society is rife with these types of problems. Insurance is supposed to protect people from the financial effects of a disease like COVID-19 — but people lost their jobs and insurance literally because of COVID-19’s effect on the economy, and then went bankrupt as a result. How twisted is that? Incarceration works similarly in the United States. We incarcerate people in facilities run by for-profit organizations, which means they get paid for each new inmate they’re able to take. This gives them a great reason to keep people incarcerated. Make sense? Nope.

A UMBC website ran an opinion piece written by Lauren Gantman arguing for the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. She wrote: “There is no ethical way to kill another human being, and even more concerning, there is no guarantee that a fair trial has been conducted to deliver an inmate to death row.”

Gantman shares the National Academy of Science’s statistic that an appalling four percent of those convicted and sent to death row are actually innocent of the crimes for which they were accused. 

Lauren wrote: “In his final moments, Dustin Higgs, convicted of bullying co-conspirator Willis Mark Haynes into killing three women in 1996, asserted his innocence. Although Haynes states in an affidavit that Higgs had no part of influence in the murders, on January 16, Higgs became the thirteenth and final federally executed inmate under former President Trump.”

One study in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies found that juries find Black defendants guilty at an 81 percent rate while they find white defendants guilty at a 66 percent rate — when there are no Black jury members, of course. Which leads us to the obvious: there is a disparity between what constitutes “justice” depending on a person’s ethnicity. African Americans suffer from unfair prosecution more than their white counterparts, and it needs to stop. The first step might be ending capital punishment before anyone else innocent can be put to death.

What are the alternatives? First, we need to create a system that incarcerates only those who are an actual danger to society — and people who smoke or deal pot don’t fit into that category. Second, we need to focus on changing the underlying conditions that result in criminality, i.e. poverty and lack of education. Third, we need to add another focus on allowing those in prison to feel productive when it might otherwise be impossible.

What Are The Five Basic Types Of Probation?

Probation is often an alternative to literal punishment employed by the criminal justice system when it deems a particular offender is either nonviolent (not a threat to society) or unlikely to reoffend. Often, they are paired with more productive forms of punishment such as community service. Probation is supervisory in nature. The subject on probation must abide by the law, remain employed, and usually uphold a strict code of conduct that might include a curfew, educational programs, and regular meetings with a probation officer.

Violation means a steep fine and/or incarceration. There are five basic types of probation. They include intensive, standard, unsupervised, informal, and shock.

Intensive probation usually means home detention. The subject is usually monitored using a GPS ankle bracelet. This form of probation is given to violent criminals, usually after a prison sentence has expired. Often, the subject will be forced to waive constitutional rights due to the obvious infringement on privacy. 

Standard probation means that the subject will do little more than report to a probation officer at set intervals. Other conditions might be provided by the judge.

Unsupervised probation means that the subject is not likely asked to report to a probation officer at all. There might be other conditions that apply to this type of probation, but they are carried out or completed by the subject. Typical conditions include a fine or community service or simply abiding by the law for the duration of probation.

Informal probation means that the subject may not have been formally convicted. Following the expiration of the terms of informal probation, charges that led to the probation are normally dismissed.

Shock probation means that a person is taken out of jail suddenly — and prematurely — in order to “shock” the subject into good behavior. The idea is that some convicted criminals will readjust after only a short jail sentence is completed.

What Happens When You Violate Probation?

If you were charged and convicted of a crime but managed to escape jail time or have already served your sentence behind bars, then it stands to reason that you should take steps to avoid being jailed. Probation is a way for law enforcement to keep a close watch over offenders who aren’t necessarily a danger to society without having to keep those offenders locked up at taxpayer expense. What happens when you violate probation? Well, the short answer is easy: you’re probably going to jail. So don’t do it.

The long answer is more complicated.

Two types of probation exist: the strict kind, and the lenient kind. If you’re under strict probation, you likely report to a probation officer every so often, and you might have unscheduled visits just to check up on you. You might have a long list of strict guidelines for your probation. For example, stay away from alcohol or other drugs. If you don’t have someone checking up on you, then the only requirement is avoiding arrest.

If you’re under strict probation, then the list of ways you can violate it is a long one. You might be arrested, you might test positive for drugs or alcohol, you might fail your financial requirements according to the law, you might fail to show up for community service or educational programs, or you might fail to keep a meeting with your probation officer. Doing any of these things is bad news.

The good news is this. In Florida, the court system has a great level of control over probation violation penalties. With a good legal defense (and hopefully a reasonable explanation of why you violated probation), you can hope to avoid additional jail time. One of the best outcomes you can hope for is a simple extension of your existing probation. Depending on the original crime and the type of probation, you might only get off with a warning.

Other more lenient penalties involve community service, rehabilitation for substance abuse, or counseling. You may also incur additional fines. If the court decides to revoke your probation, you’ll serve the rest of your original sentence behind bars. Although circumstances can vary greatly, one thing is for certain: you should get yourself a qualified and experienced lawyer.