Incarceration is very expensive. Georgia spends almost $20,000 per year per prison inmate. This number is very high, and it’s one of the lowest ones in the country. Reducing the prison population is a good way to reduce state expenses. But releasing people who plead guilty or are found guilty is clearly not an option.
Generally, probation is a much better option, and not just because of the cost. The community supervision infrastructure is much cheaper. Furthermore, since defendants pay supervision fees, it is self-supporting, at least to an extent. Additionally, probationers can work or go to school, so they support their families and improve themselves.
So, the state wants to put as many people on probation as possible. But there must be some limits. If defendants cross the line, prosecutors do not hesitate to file motions to revoke probation. That filing does not mean you are going to jail. It just means you are in trouble, and a Marietta criminal defense attorney knows how to get you out of trouble.
In Georgia, community supervision typically means regular probation or deferred adjudication probation. In practical terms, these two forms of probation are identical. In legal terms, they are light years apart.
First, the practical matters. The length is the same. Typically, misdemeanor probation lasts about six or eight months and felony probation lasts eight or ten years. These lengths vary significantly, usually based on the offense committed, extenuating or aggravating circumstances, and the defendant’s criminal record, if any.
The conditions of probation are normally the same as well. In Cobb County, there are basically two categories of conditions:
- Core Conditions: Reporting to a probation officer and staying out of trouble are the two most important conditions of probation. Initially, most probationers must report in person weekly or biweekly. Later, the meetings go to monthly or even bimonthly. Any criminal conviction for anything more serious than a traffic ticket is also grounds for revocation.
- Technical Conditions: Typically, probationers must also abide by a long list of technical conditions. Some highlights include working and/or going to school full time, remaining within the county, paying fines and restitution, attending court-ordered classes, avoiding “injurious” habits, and supporting one’s dependents. There might be some offense-specific conditions as well. For example, many DUI probationers either cannot drive or can only drive on a limited basis.
A failure to meet a core condition usually generates an immediate motion to revoke. Most probation officers give defendants some leeway regarding technical conditions. If you miss a payment or class attendance deadline, you’ll normally have a chance to make things right.
On a related note, some technical conditions have Constitutional problems. For example, debtors’ prisons are illegal in Georgia. So, it’s arguably illegal to revoke probation for failure to pay money, especially if that money is restitution to a private party.
Now, for the legal issues. Except for immigration purposes, deferred adjudication does not result in a criminal conviction. If probationers complete their terms successfully, the judge dismisses the case.
There is a significant risk. If deferred adjudication defendants violate their probations, the judge could sentence them to anything up to the legal maximum. Penalties for regular probation violations are usually capped much lower.
Motions to Revoke
The state has the burden of proof to show that the allegations in the motion are true or untrue. Prosecutors must prove their cases by a preponderance of the evidence. That’s a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the burden of proof at trial.
There could be some Constitutional issues. Assume Jerry appears drunk when he comes to a meeting. He leaves before he is detained. At trial, physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes, are insufficient. But in a motion to revoke, physical symptoms could be enough.
Typically, probation officers ask prosecutors to file motions. If the matter goes to a hearing, the probation officer normally must give supporting testimony.
A motion to revoke might be easy to prove in court. But a Marietta criminal defense attorney can engineer a happy ending, at least in most cases.
Plea bargains are available. Most prosecutors will agree to something like an extension of the term or a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement. If you initially received deferred adjudication, conversion to regular probation, which means a criminal conviction, could be an option as well.
Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. If a Marietta criminal defense attorney ends your probation early, you do not have to worry about violating it.
Georgia lawmakers recently expanded the early discharge law. An attorney can get you off probation even if you do not have a flawless record and even if you have only completed a fraction of the term. Typically, however, judges want to see the following:
- An almost-flawless record,
- Completion of all court-ordered classes,
- Favorable or neutral recommendation from the defendant’s probation officer.
- Full payment of fines and restitution,
- Completion of at least half the term,
- Full allocution (acceptance of responsibility), and
- Special circumstances (g. I must travel out of state for work).
The probation officer’s recommendation might be the most important factor. If the officer supports the defendant’s request, or at least does not oppose it, many prosecutors do not contest the motion for early discharge.
A similar setup is in place for parole early discharge. Early discharge from parole, which involves a mandatory waiting period, often includes a pardon.
Speaking of clemency, an executive pardon might be an option as well. Governors routinely grant pardons if an attorney presents the request properly and the request is consistent with the Governor’s political agenda. Former President Barack Obama granted almost two thousand commutations and pardons. Many of these people had served, or were serving, long sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
If the state files a motion to revoke, you do not necessarily go directly to jail. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Virtual, home, after-hours, and jail visits are available.