How to Stay Out of Trouble When You’re on Probation
Not all crimes come with jail time. In fact, many people who are arrested for a misdemeanor on a first offense will not be required to serve time behind bars. However, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Most often when jail time is waived in sentencing, probation is required instead. During probation, you must follow a certain set of behavioral guidelines while under supervision from a probation officer for a set period—generally six to eighteen months. If part of your sentence includes a period of probation, here are the steps you need to take to stay out of trouble with the law.
Understand the Terms of Your Probation
The terms of your probation will vary depending on the crime you were convicted of as well as your personal criminal record. For example, if alcohol played a role in your arrest, you may be instructed not to drink alcohol while on probation. You may also have to comply with drug screenings at regular or randomized intervals.
The most important aspect of your probation will be following the law to the letter. If you commit a crime on probation, you are much more likely to serve a lengthy jail term upon conviction. Even traffic stops can be problematic. A simple moving violation won’t likely affect your probation, but a DUI or combined factors such as driving with expired tags or an out of date license could land you back in a courtroom.
Stay in Contact with Your Probation Officer
Typically, your probation officer will set up a schedule of appointments. If you know you will be late or unable to attend, contact your probation officer as soon as possible. You also are responsible for letting your probation officer know if you change your address, contact info, or employment status. This should happen right away; don’t simply wait until your next appointment. If you aren’t required to meet with your probation officer and have not heard from them in a while, check in at least once per month to make sure you are following all necessary steps to comply with your probation terms. Don’t ever assume that no news is good news when it comes to hearing from your probation officer.
Keep Your Own Contact Records
Unfortunately, probation officers often have significant case loads and limited resources, so they may not always have accurate records on every point of contact that exists for your case. To resolve any potential issues later, keep a record of every call and visit you make to your probation officer, counselor, and any other required contacts you need to keep in touch with. This way, if there is uncertainty about your compliance later on, you will be prepared with written documentation.
Trim Your Social Circle
For some people, probation may be a wake-up call that inspires some significant life changes. If you find that it’s difficult to avoid reckless or destructive behavior around certain members of your social group, then you may need to rethink your social contacts. Similarly, if drugs and alcohol were part of your arrest, you may need to refrain from contacting friends who encourage you to drink more often or provide access to illegal drugs.
Be Aware of Your Online Presence
Modern technology makes it much easier to stay in touch with your probation officer, pay court fees, and take other necessary actions for compliance. However, it also makes it easier for your probation officer to spot a probation violation. For example, snapping a photo of yourself having a beer with a friend could get you in trouble if you have been instructed not to drink alcohol while on probation. Always be aware of any posts you publish on social media as well as others you might be tagged in by friends. Remember, even if your accounts are set to private, your posts and tags may still be seen outside your friend group.
Stay in Touch with Your Defense Attorney
Your criminal defense lawyer is a great resource for helping you comply with your probation. While you will need to be accountable for taking steps mandated by the court and attending all appointments with your probation officer, your attorney can help you with questions and concerns during your probation as well as any potential violations. If your probation officer does inform you that you’ve violated probation, talk to your lawyer before addressing the situation any further.
Working with Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law, you can defend your rights and work toward the most favorable outcome possible for your case. Ms. Altschuler is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has been practicing in Pima County and Southern Arizona for more than 20 years. Call (520) 247-1789 to schedule a consultation for your case.