If you’re sentenced to probation, your initial feeling might be relief because you’re not incarcerated, you can spend time with your family and in your community, and you can resume your life. But, probation doesn’t offer absolute freedom. An important factor to remember is that you are still subject to certain conditions, such as you may have to be monitored or seek permission to travel outside the county. Other common restrictions include:
- Reporting regularly to your probation officer.
- Attending classes or counseling.
- Participating in community service.
- Agreeing to random drug testing.
- Remaining gainfully employed.
- Committing no new criminal violations.
Failing to comply with any of those conditions, from testing positive for drugs to missing an appointment with your probation officer, constitutes a probation violation and can compromise your newfound freedom.
Texas recognizes two types of probation, deferred adjudication and probation. Under deferred adjudication, a defendant enters a plea of “guilty” or “no contest,” but the judge defers any finding of guilt and places the defendant on probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the charges will be dropped and there will be no conviction on the defendant’s record. This type of probation is generally reserved for first-time offenders and is not available to defendants with charges such as DWI, murder, kidnapping, or sex crimes.
Under the terms of ordinary probation, the judge finds the defendant guilty and sentences the defendant to a number of years of probation. Even though probation is a relatively lenient sentence, the defendant’s record will reflect a criminal conviction.
Whether you receive deferred adjudication or probation, you must adhere to the terms set by the court, and if you violate those terms, you face a host of new procedures. If your probation officer thinks that you have committed a violation, the officer will file a motion to revoke (in the case of ordinary probation) or a motion to adjudicate (in the case of deferred adjudication, this motion is meant to trigger a finding by the court). The court will then issue a motion for your arrest and set your case for hearing by a judge. The stakes are high: if you are on probation and probation is revoked, you may be incarcerated for the number of years outlined in your original plea. If you are on deferred adjudication, because there is no sentence defined in your plea, the judge could sentence you to the full range of punishment for your crime.
The probation officer’s claim that you violated your probation must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a lower standard than is applied to criminal cases where guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In this context, “preponderance of the evidence” means simply that it is more likely than not that you violated your probation. However, you are entitled to present evidence in your defense, and you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer.
We have experience ensuring that defendants’ rights are protected in court. If you need someone to fight by your side, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.