UNDERSTANDING PROBATION IN FLORIDA

What happens if you are convicted of a crime in Florida and you’re put on probation? Do you know exactly what that all entails? What about if you’re put on parole after being incarcerated?

The intricacies of the Florida justice system can be confusing at best. Learn the difference between probation and parole, and the laws that impact probation in Florida.

How Does Probation in Florida Work?

If you are convicted of a crime, you may be put on probation by the judge. Probation is a type of punishment for crime that is less severe than incarceration, or going to jail. Probation in Florida cannot exceed the legal terms for the specific offense. Probation may be granted to first-time offenders with an otherwise clean record.

If you are placed on probation, you must maintain a clean record and meet with a probation officer. You may be obligated to refrain from drinking or using drugs during your probation. The Florida Department of Corrections supervises individuals on probation.

In addition to following the terms outlined in your probation agreement, you may need to pay court fees, fines related to the charges, or fines related to probation supervision.

If you violate your probation in any way, you will face legal consequences, which could include the revocation of your probation and jail time.

When accused of a crime, we recommend working with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid a criminal conviction or minimize the impact on your life and keep you out of jail. A skilled attorney may be able to get you probation instead of jail time, or help you avoid conviction altogether.

Parole vs. Probation

Unlike probation, which includes no jail time, parole is associated with incarceration. If you serve jail time for a conviction, you may be released from jail early and placed on parole.

The time of your parole is related to time served relative to the sentence. You cannot legally be placed on parole for longer than the time remaining on your sentence. For example, if you receive a 12-month sentence and were released after 11 months, your parole cannot legally exceed one month.

Florida made legislative changes that drastically limited the number of inmates who were eligible for parole. Under current law, inmates whose crimes were committed on or after October 1, 1995, must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence in jail. Only after that time are inmates eligible for parole. Florida views parole as an “act of grace of the State” and not a right of inmates.

If you do find yourself eligible for parole, the Florida Commission on Offender Review will develop a release agreement that outlines acceptable behavior on parole. You must follow the agreement in full or you jeopardize your parole.

Your attorney can make sure you understand the legal requirements of your parole agreement and do not accidentally violate your agreement. Remember, it’s your freedom is at stake.

How to Avoid a Probation Violation

There are two ways you can violate your probation in Florida: “new law” and technical violations.

A new law violation would be any crime committed other than the one you were convicted for. If you were convicted of a DUI and you shoplift something while on probation that would be a probation violation.

A technical violation is any other act that violates your probation in Florida. Many technical violations occur around late payment of fees or fines or around lack of communication with your probation officer.

By paying attention to due dates and staying in touch with your probation office, you can avoid many violations. For example, if you move to a new apartment, let your probation officer know your new address. If you know a holiday is coming up and mail will be delayed, put your payment in the mail a couple of days early to account for delays.

With both types of probation violation, the State must prove three things:

  • You were aware of the probation conditions
  • You willfully violated these conditions
  • You actually committed the infraction (no hearsay)

If something goes wrong, don’t panic. Get in touch with your Tampa criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you defend against an allegation of probation violation, reduce the effects of a conviction on your life, and help you seal or expunge your record.