Felony probation is a program designed for severe criminal offenses. Felony probation is more carefully structured and supervised, given the seriousness of the crimes that led to the conviction and subsequent probation. It is important for the defendant to understand the requirements of felony probation to ensure he stays in full compliance with the law.
Overview of Felony Probation
A defendant receives felony probation instead of jail time for a felony level offense. Rather than serving more than a year in jail or prison, the person’s sentence may be deferred or suspended and put on probation. If you comply with all conditions of the probation, you will not be required to go to prison or jail. Felony probation is similar to misdemeanor probation in that it requires you to report to the probation officer to check that you are living a life free of crime and are working.
Other requirements of felony probation often include having to pay fines, court costs, restitution and community service. Of course, you cannot commit any new crimes while on probation.
Felony probation deals with more serious criminal charges, so there is a focus on prevention and rehabilitation. The concept is that if enough boundaries are set and you are rehabilitated, the community is a safer place and will benefit from a more productive person in society.
Felony Probation Restrictions
Felony probation requirements are usually stricter than for misdemeanors or traffic violations. Expect to have more fines and hours of community service, for example. You will likely be required to report at least one time per month to your probation officer. If the charge against you was more serious, you may be required to meet weekly with your probation officer, and may have to wear a type of electronic monitoring device. As a felony offender, you also will be evaluated for programs that may help you to be rehabilitated and to no longer lead a life of crime. Some of the programs that could be available depending upon the state are:
- Anger management
- Sex offender counseling
- Life skill development
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation
Misdemeanor probation often offers similar programs, but they are usually more limited in scope than felony programs because the misdemeanor programs are shorter, typically ranging from 180 days to two years. Felony probation usually has a longer term rehabilitation objective and can range from two to 10 years. Some felony probation programs may include a required in patient stay at a facility, such as a halfway house.
For instance, in Texas there is a program for felony probation where the person must stay at a facility and cannot be released until he has completed a drug and alcohol counseling program. If the court thinks the person has not worked enough on his rehab, it can order the defendant to be incarcerated in the county jail as part of probation. This may be referred to as a sanction, or more commonly as jail therapy. Sanctions are designed as a reminder of what will happen if the person does not comply with felony probation guidelines.
Other guidelines for felony probation in Texas are:
- Avoiding injurious and vicious habits
- Avoiding the use of narcotics and any other controlled substances unless with a doctor’s prescription
- Avoiding association with people who have criminal records
- Work to be gainfully employed as much as possible
- Tell the probation officer before changing or quitting jobs
- Do not commit or be convicted of any offense against the laws of Texas
- Tell the probation officer before changing residences
- Submit to drug and alcohol testing
- Stay within the county and only leave with the permission of the probation officer
- Support dependents
- Pay all fees associated with felony probation
- 10 pm to 6 am curfew at your place of residence
Some states have a felony probation program known as shock probation. Rather than putting you on probation right away, the court could sentence you to a short prison sentence and order you to be sent there. If you do well in prison, you may be brought back to the court and placed on felony probation. The concept here is to shock the person with the reality of being in prison so he will feel more motivated to do well on probation. If you fail to comply with the terms of felony probation, you can be sent back to prison.
Other Things to Know About Felony Probation
Felony probation is better than going to prison, but it is not as easy as it seems. The details of felony probation depend upon the state in which the crime occurred, but below are some realities of felony probation to be aware of:
- You still can be sent to prison. The slightest misstep on probation will result in you being sent to jail or prison. Your probation officer will carefully check your performance and see if you are fully in compliance with the terms of probation. If you slip up, you could be sent to prison for the maximum sentence allowed.
- You must pay for the supervision. There is a fee each month for the cost of your felony probation. How much this is depends upon the state and county that is providing your supervision. Payment of the costs cannot generally be included as a probation condition. But if you do not pay, you can have a civil judgment placed against you.
- You can violate probation without commiting a crime. You need to stay away from committing crimes, but you also need to pay fines, attend required meetings and complete any programs required.
- Phone probation meetings may be allowed. Depending upon the jurisdiction, your probation officer may allow you to maintain contact by phone after the first few meetings.
- Travel is restricted. A common condition of felony probation is not being allowed to leave the state without telling your probation officer. It is probably a good idea to tell your probation officer even if you only plan to leave the county.
- Moving to another state is difficult. If you need to move to another state, you need to work closely with your probation officer. You could have your felony probation supervision transferred to another area if you petition the court and get approval from the probation officer. This may be allowed if the move is due to family or employment.
- Employment is often required. Under California Penal Code section 1203.1(d), for example, the court can require a condition that you are employed. But if you are not working, the probation officer may have the discretion to consider you to be in compliance with the probation terms; this usually would require you to show you are looking for work. This may involve you having to take a job that you think does not pay enough.
- Home and person can be searched. A typical condition of felony probation is your person or property may be searched at any time without a court warrant. This is very common on drug convictions. You may have to have drug testing, too.
- Probation violation can be through your associations. The court can impose restrictions on who you may socialize with. This is common in California where the court of appeals has ruled that a ‘no gang contact’ condition may be imposed.
- Family is not entitled to speak to probation officer. If you are more than 18, the probation officer is not allowed to talk about your case with anyone other than those professionally affiliated with the probation case.
- Overview of Felony Probation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://criminal-law.freeadvice.com/criminal-law/parole_probation/felony-probation.htm
- Felony Probation Conditions for McLennan County TX. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.co.mclennan.tx.us/189/Felony-Probation-Conditions