Probation began as a community-driven project in Boston in the 1830s. Local philanthropists often convinced judges to place incarcerated defendants in their custody, so these people could be rehabilitated. This program worked so well that the government took it over. Probation was statewide in Massachusetts by about 1880. In 1925, after over two dozen failed attempts, the Federal Probation Act finally passed. This law ushered in the modern probation era.
Most other states, including Georgia, embraced probation, but not just because of its rehabilitative possibilities. Community supervision isn’t nearly as expensive as incarceration. Furthermore, probation is a complete carrot-and-the-stick approach to criminal justice. Toe the line and you can go about your business. Break the rules and bad things happen.
As outlined below, several forms of probation are available in Cobb County. Some are so easy to complete that defendants often forget they’re on probation. Others have so many requirements that it’s almost impossible to follow them all. For better or worse, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer stays with defendants through the whole process. Attorneys negotiate favorable terms and conditions of probation and, if things go sideways, represent defendants in probation violation matters.
The recent “get tough on crime” wave in Georgia has revitalized the once-dormant shock probation program in Cobb County. As is always the case, the different kinds of probation vary slightly in different courts. But here’s the general low-down.
Beyond Scared Straight, the long-running A&E show partially set in Georgia, sets up the basics of shock probation. The defendant typically serves a few days or weeks in a nearby state prison, generally Phillips (men) or Arrendale (adult women and juveniles). According to advocates, the prison experience scares defendants so badly that they gladly toe the line during the probation that follows.
The science for or against shock probation is subject to interpretation. As my father liked to say, figures don’t lie and liars figure.
Many judges also use COR (condition of reinstatement) probation, which is like shock probation, in violation cases. This time, the defendant is usually already in jail. Therefore, the judge makes the defendant serve a little more time before releasing him/her on probation.
Deferred disposition probation is usually like standard or intensive probation on an everyday basis. However, at the end, the judge dismisses the case. So, the defendant has no criminal conviction record. The arrest record remains but mist employers and landlords don’t care about prior arrests.
That’s the upside. Deferred disposition also has a significant downside. If the probationer violates probation, even a ticky-tack one like missing a community service completion deadline, the judge can revoke probation and sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum.
Therefore, before a Marietta criminal defense attorney accepts a deferred disposition deal on behalf of the defendant, attorney and client usually have a heart-to-heart talk. If the defendant has authority issues or has trouble being in a certain place at a certain time, the defendant will probably violate probation at least once.
If available, unsupervised probation might be the most defendant-friendly kind of probation. Aside from paying fines and court costs, unsupervised probation is truly unsupervised.
Let’s pause briefly and discuss money issues during probation. Many Georgia courts privatize probation, which means fines and fees could be as much as $200 a month in some cases. That’s a lot of money to anyone, especially to someone who’s barely making ends meet.
Many judges won’t violate probation if failure to pay money is the probationer’s only infraction. To these judges, incarcerating these defendants turns Georgia prisons into debtors’ prisons. That’s especially true if the debt is to a private organization.
Generally, only misdemeanors are eligible for unsupervised probation. So, if possible, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer must reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. A reduction from aggravated assault to ordinary assault is a good example.
Unless the judge grants a prosecutor’s or defense lawyer’s request, probationers nearly always receive standard probation. Some standard conditions apply to everyone. They include:
- Reporting in person to a supervision officer, usually once or twice a month,
- Producing requested documents, such as pay stubs or school report cards,
- Avoiding “disreputable” habits, which usually means submitting to drug testing,
- Remaining in the county at all times,
- Staying out of trouble with the law,
- Working and/or attending school full time, and
- Supporting dependents (e.g. no delinquent alimony or child support).
Judges also impose offence-specific requirements. An IID, otherwise known as a “blow and go,” in DUI probation is a good example.
A mechanic attaches a small Breathalyzers to the vehicle’s ignition. If the driver fails a breath test, the vehicle won’t start or restart. Another mechanic usually monitors the IID and calibrates it once a month. The defendant usually pays for all these things.
As the name implies, intensive probation is an intense version of standard probation. Many violent criminals, higher-ranking gang members, habitual offenders, and sex offenders must submit to additional conditions like GPS monitoring, house arrest, and computer monitoring.
Additionally, many offenders must waive their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment regarding search and seizure, and such probationers may be subject to unannounced home or workplace visits, surveillance, and the use of electronic monitoring or satellite tracking.
The judge has almost absolute authority to modify the terms and conditions of probation at any time. So, if the defendant is good for a few weeks or months, most judges are willing to terminate or relax intensive probation conditions.
Probation is not a one-size-fits-all criminal sentence. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.