Probation Violation FAQ’s

March 14, 2017

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Probation — officially known as “Community Supervision” in Texas — is where a person is either convicted after either a guilty plea or a trial and rather than sending the person to jail or prison their sentence is frozen while they complete probation.  Deferred Adjudication is another form of probation where a person has plead guilty or no contest and the Judge withholds a determination of guilt pending the completion of probation.

Think of Probation in two categories:  Things you must do and things you can’t do.  Obviously you can’t get arrested, break laws or go to places you might not be allowed.  On the other hand you typically have to complete community services hours, and take classes (such as anger management, alcohol awareness, or an anti-theft class).

What is A Motion to Revoke (Adjudicate)?

Revoking probation is where the State files a motion alleging a violation of probation after a conviction.  The state is essentially asking the Judge to un-freeze the jail sentence and sentence the Defendant accordingly assuming probation has been taken away.

A motion to adjudicate is the same except it is for Deferred Adjudication.  The only difference is the state is asking for the judge to proceed with a conviction and sentence the Defendant anywhere within the applicable punishment range.

When discussing a motion to revoke, I also mean to use motion to adjudicate interchangeably for ease.

What Will Happen if I Get Revoked?

If the probation officer recommends revocationthe Prosecutor typically approves it.  They file a motion with the Court and the Judge issues a warrant for a probationer’s arrest. Where a defendant has deferred adjudication they are normally entitled to a bond but this might not be set until after the arrest.  Misdemeanor deferred and convictions are eligible for bond — again sometimes only available after the arrest.  Felony convictions are typically not eligible for a bond pending revocation.

Your case proceeds to Court as did the original case.  There are two issues in play.

First is whether the probationer violated.  This is a question for the judge only because a right to a jury has since been extinguished in the original proceeding.  The standard of proof is beyond a preponderance of the evidence — much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt as it would be at trial.

The second issue is assuming the revocation is good (and statistically most are), then what should the appropriate punishment be at this point?

What Are the Reasons Most People Get Revoked?

It varies.  Legally you could get revoked by missing a single probation appointment though I’ve never seen this happen.

In Collin County most new offenses or arrests result in a motion to revoke even if they are Class C misdemeanors.

Other common reasons for revocation are failed drug tests, non-reporting, failure to complete classes, failure to do community service and failure to pay fines and fees.

The revocations in the latter group are mostly clusters of allegations.  It is very rare to see a person revoked for one short-coming while on probation.

Will My Probation Be Revoked If I (Fill in the Blank)?

It’s truly a case by case basis.  Much of it has to do with your relationship with your probation officer.  Many of them want to see a probationer succeed and unfortunately some of them want to see a probationer fail.

I Think They Want to Sanction Me.  Do I Have to Agree to It?

No.  This is where a probationer has violated probation but a probation officer would rather not go through the Court system to address the problem.

Only the Judge can unilaterally alter the terms and conditions of your probation.  A probation officer is asking you to waive that by handing you sanctions.  Many proposed sanctions are ridiculous then again many are great deals which can avoid a full-blown revocation.  The problem is often the probation officer corners someone with the proposed sanction in the office accompanied with threats and an inability to talk to a lawyer first.

What is a “Technical” Violation of Probation?

A “technical” refers to a violation which is not a new criminal charge.  As discussed above, revocations based on technical violations tend to come in clusters of violations.  Unfortunately a technical violation is typically easier to prove than a new case.

Is My Probation Officer Out to Get Me?

Probation officers have a hard job.  They deal with a lot of people who are abusive and disrespectful to them.  Being someone who makes their job harder certainly doesn’t help your chances.

Some probation officers feel a strong need for control, though, to people who challenge them.  If you fit in either of these categories then you’ll have problems with a probation officer.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is a lawyer licensed to practice in Texas and he is Board Certified in Criminal law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice and you should consult a lawyer for any criminal situation.

 


Felony Pre-Trial Diversion in Collin County

February 17, 2017

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

The Collin County District Attorney’s Office unveiled their new Felony Pre-Trial Diversion Plan earlier this month.

What Is Pre-Trial Diversion?

Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) is when you do an “informal” probation without pleading guilty.  The case is dismissed when you are finished and the Collin County District Attorney’s Office does not oppose a Petition for Expunction clearing your record entirely.

The diversion can last a year or more and typically includes customary probation requirements such as monthly reporting, random drug tests, classes, and community service.

PTD is considered for first-time arrestees and the previous program was far more wide-spread for misdemeanor charges such as theft or possession of marijuana.   Acceptance into PTD is predicated also on an arrestee admitting to the charge in writing (though not a plea of guilty.)

If the person in the program fails-out or does not complete diversion then their case goes back to Court where the person can still have a trial.

An important dynamic of Pre-Trial Diversion in Collin County is a participant’s inclusion is at the sole discretion of the D.A.’s office and the probation department which administers it.  This means they can refuse to admit you for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason whatsoever.

What is New with the Program?

PTD was really only for misdemeanors but some felonies qualified too.  Now the D.A.’s office has promised to review far more applicants for Felony PTD cases.

A joke I’ve told prosecutors in the past was, “The first pre-requisite for felony PTD is it can’t be a felony.”  This is to say though the D.A.’s office had previously accepted felonies into diversion — the cases accepted were as common as purple unicorns grazing on the highway.

One of the problems with the old felony PTD system, from my point of view, was the daunting layers of prosecutors who had to be convinced my client was deserving of another chance.

Prosecutors handle hundreds of cases a certain way throughout their career and when you want a specific case to be treated differently — it’s an uphill battle.  This is completely understandable but a challenge none the less.

The D.A.’s office seems very serious about expanding the program if nothing else.  They have created a web page for applications and dedicated a prosecutor to review all of the applications which shows they have very much centralized their plan.

How Do I Get In to the Collin County Felony PTD Program?

The procedure for qualifying for Felony PTD isn’t an easy one.  You must go to their web-page and fill out an online application which requires you to upload things such as letters of recommendation, your resume, and school transcripts.

DO NOT FILL OUT THEIR APPLICATION WITHOUT A LAWYER!

First of all you need to have been indicted by the Collin County Grand Jury with a felony to begin this process… that is you have to be formally charged with a felony first (not just on-bond after being released from a felony arrest).

Second, anything you upload is information law enforcement probably already does not have about you. Anything you say or upload has the potential to be used against you.

Additional advocacy and lobbying by attorneys for their clients applying to the program will be a key component of getting accepted into the program.

If they invite you to interview with the probation department directly then you’re in pretty good shape.  You and your lawyer will go over additional paper-work and discuss the interview process.

What We Don’t Know About Felony PTD Yet

There are still many unanswered questions.  We don’t know how they will treat certain cases and we don’t have much of an idea of what their acceptance rates will look like.  For example in misdemeanor cases we know they will not accept family violence cases or DWI cases for diversion.  There will undoubtedly be categories of cases they will not review simply based on the charge.

There will be much trial and error both on the D.A.’s side of the program and on the defense side which only time will resolve.  They will undoubtedly get applications they don’t know what to do with just the same as we are guessing at what they will and won’t accept.

We will have a much better idea exactly how their new, expanded program is working in time.

Until then play it safe and listen to your lawyer.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed in the State of Texas and is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any matter contact a lawyer directly.