Starting Probation in Travis County
WHAT IS PROBATION?
Probation is an alternative to jail. Probation is technically a jail sentence that has been suspended and you are on “community supervision”. If you violate the terms of the probation the judge has the option to sentence you to jail. However the jail sentence is capped by the probation terms. For example, a typical plea bargain would be 180 days in jail, probated for 2 years. This means the probation length is 2 years. If you violate a condition the judge can send you to county jail for up to 180 days (which would actually be 90 days because you get 2 days credit for each single day).
WHAT IS “COMMUNITY SUPERVISION”?
Community supervision is the same as probation. While under community supervision you are monitored by a “probation officer” who is in charge of making sure that you comply with all of the terms of the probation.
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF COMMUNITY SUPERVISION?
The main ones are:
– do not get arrested for anything else
– do the community service and classes you agreed to as a condition of probation
– pay any probation fees
– do not drink alcohol or use drugs
There are also other conditions that don’t apply very often – such as don’t associate with criminals, look for or keep a job, etc.
I’M NOT ALLOWED TO DRINK ALCOHOL ON PROBATION?
No, and my advice is to comply with this condition.
HOW DO THEY KNOW IF I’M DRINKING?
They can find out if you are arrested for another offense that involves alcohol – or if you go to your probation meeting smelling of alcohol or intoxicated. Yes, this happens. Also if your probation involves some type of alcohol monitoring device (Ignition Interlock Device, portable device, SCRAM), your P.O. will know if you violate.
WILL THEY DRUG TEST ME?
If your offense involves drugs they will certainly drug test you. If your offense involves alcohol, they usually test you at the first meeting. However they are allowed to test you at anytime. So my advice is to stop using anything that is not prescribed to you. Do this before you are on probation.
HOW HARD IS IT TO BE ON PROBATION?
It is mostly inconvenient and mildly humiliating.
HOW OFTEN DO I MEET MY PROBATION OFFICER?
Your first meeting will be a fairly lengthy orientation. After that you will generally meet once a month at their office.
WILL THEY WORK AROUND MY WORK SCHEDULE.
WHERE DO I MEET THE PROBATION OFFICER?
They will assign you to either the North, Central or South location (based on where you live). Here are directions to the probation locations.
HOW MUCH ARE PROBATION FEES?
Probation fees will be combined with fines and court costs. Typically it works out to roughly $70-$90 a month.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE MY PROBATION OFFICER? CAN I GET A NEW ONE?
No. However if your officer is completely unreasonable, we can approach the judge and ask him/her to fix the problem. But this is an extraordinary step – do everything you can to get along with your P.O. (Probation Officer).
WHAT IF THE PROBATION OFFICER IS BEING A JERK?
Sorry about that. Some of them are. Just say “Yes sir/ma’am”. Or “no sir/ma’am.” Write everything down in a notebook (and let them see you do this). Don’t express anything but enthusiasm. If you frown or communicate displeasure in any way, they will be annoyed and become less flexible.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T DO THE THINGS I’M SUPPOSED TO DO ON PROBATION?
Your community supervision can be extended. They can also add more conditions (counseling, alcohol monitors, etc.) If they get mad enough, they’ll file a motion to revoke your probation and a warrant for your arrest will be issued. You will likely end up spending time in county jail, which is as awful as you imagine.
CAN I TRAVEL ON PROBATION?
Yes, but you have to get permission from your P.O. As long as the P.O. doesn’t think the trip is just an excuse to drink alcohol (for example, Mardi Gras), they should give you permission. The problems that we’ve seen generally occur when our clients need to get a rental car, but they are required to have an Ignition Interlock Device on any car they drive. Call us if you run into this problem. Sometimes we charge a small legal fee if it takes a lot of time to solve the problem.
IS PROBATION A CONVICTION?
If you are on “regular probation”, it is a conviction. If you are on “deferred adjudication” and complete it without any problems, it is not a conviction.
WILL MY “REGULAR PROBATION” EVER COME OFF MY RECORD?
WILL DEFERRED ADJUDICATION COME OFF MY RECORD?
No, but it can be “sealed” – which prevents civilian agencies (Dell, Walmart, etc.) from seeing it. This must be done after a waiting period and should be done by a lawyer. We can help you with this.
I’M ON REGULAR PROBATION. WHY DIDN’T YOU GET ME DEFERRED ADJUDICATION?
We always try to get deferred adjudication (if we can’t get the case dismissed). Unfortunately, the prosecutor has to be willing to offer it.
CAN I TRANSFER PROBATION TO ANOTHER CITY/COUNTY IN TEXAS IF I HAVE TO MOVE?
CAN I TRANSFER PROBATION TO ANOTHER STATE?
No. However, if you are moving for a good job or another important reason – we can often work something out with the judge. In other words, don’t let probation prevent you from advancing your career or from doing something that is important. Many people try to be sneaky and fake a reason to move when their only goal is to get off probation. The judge will not be fooled. We have to provide compelling proof that we have a legitimate reason.
CAN I GET OFF PROBATION EARLY?
This is called “early termination”. A judge has to agree to do this. If you have been perfect while on probation – with no problems whatsoever and completed all the terms – and we have a compelling reason, we can occasionally convince a judge to terminate probation early.
I DON’T WANT TO BE ON PROBATION.
I wouldn’t either. We always try to keep our clients off probation. We do this by trying to get the case dismissed either through a plea bargain or other means (pre-trial diversion, suppression hearing, etc.). If we can’t do that, we explore the available alternatives (short jail time, SWAP program, etc.). Unfortunately, sometimes probation is the only resolution that both sides can agree on. Obviously we always have the option of having a jury trial. But if we lose, the judge can put you on probation (or in jail) or both.
CAN I CALL YOU FOR ADVICE WHILE I’M ON PROBATION?
I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS.
You should download the probation handbook PDF below. This is what they give everyone who starts probation. It is very informative.
I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS.
No problem, give us a call. (512) 472-1113.