Being on probation in Florida is like walking a tightrope. One slip could be catastrophic because it could result in incarceration. It may not be as restrictive as being in prison, but make no mistake—your actions and freedoms are significantly curtailed while you are on probation.
It is certainly better than being in jail or prison, but if you don’t want to eventually end up incarcerated you need to strictly adhere to your probationary rules and restrictions. If you have been sentenced to probation in Florida, or if you are seeking probation as an alternative to incarceration, there are some things you need to know.
What Is Probation in Florida? How Does It Work?
Probation in Florida is a form of court-ordered supervision that does not require you to remain in jail, prison, or on house arrest (in most cases). Instead, your probation involves supervision by your probation officer and includes many rules you must follow and tasks you must complete. You must be very diligent and comply with each and every condition placed upon you to maintain your probationary status and remain free. If you violate any condition, you will likely end up in jail.
How Many People Are on Probation in Florida?
Nearly 150,000 people are on probation in Florida. That is almost twice the number of people currently incarcerated.
What’s It Like to Be on Probation?
Probation typically lasts a long time in Florida. In fact, the average length of probation ranges from three to 15 years, depending on the seriousness of the offense. You can expect probation to be burdensome, expensive, and nerve-racking (since the specter of incarceration constantly looms over you). Losing your job could threaten your freedom. And even if you manage to keep your job, it might yield barely enough money to meet your offense-related financial obligations such as the cost of probationary supervision, fines, court costs, and restitution.
Put simply, probation certainly beats incarceration—but it is no walk in the park.
What Are the Different Types of Probation?
The major forms of probation in Florida include:
- Standard Probation: You must obey standard terms of probation (see below) and report to your probation officer on a regular basis.
- Administrative Probation: Administrative probation is a more lenient form of probation that imposes standard conditions but does not require you to regularly meet with a probation officer.
- Drug Offender Probation: Drug offenders must typically submit to standard probationary rules, any specific conditions the judge ordered, and you must almost always complete a substance abuse program and submit to random drug tests.
- Sex Offender Probation: Sex offenders put on probation must also submit to standard probationary rules, complete any other conditions set out by the judge, and complete a sex offender treatment program under the supervision of a special probation officer.
- Community Control: “Community control” essentially means house arrest where you are incarcerated within your own home. If you are placed on community control, you will be under continuously supervised custody.
We can help you convince the judge to grant you the type of probation that will be the least burdensome upon you.
What Are the Typical Florida Probation Rules?
Florida Statutes Section 948.03 sets forth the standard terms and conditions of probation. Although the court can add details and modify these conditions somewhat, the basic terms include:
- Regularly reporting to your probation officer;
- Allowing your probation officer to visit your home, your place of employment, and other places that you frequent;
- Keeping a job during your period of probation;
- Paying restitution to anyone you harmed by your crime;
- Financially supporting your dependents;
- Remaining within a particular area specified by the court (the state, your county, your city, etc.);
- Refraining from committing any new offenses—i.e., don’t break the law;
- Not using any controlled substances unless a doctor prescribed them to you for medical reasons;
- Refraining from associating with anyone involved in criminal activity, even old friends;
- Submitting to random drug and alcohol testing; and
- Not possessing or using any firearms.
The court may impose additional conditions as well.
What Are the Typical Florida Felony Probation Rules?
Since a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor, the terms of felony probation are usually stricter and supervision is more intense than misdemeanor probation. You will probably have to visit your probation officer more frequently. The court is also more likely to require you to complete a stringent rehabilitation program (an anger management course or a drug rehabilitation program, for example).
You will still have to pay fines, court costs, and restitution. The judge may impose a requirement to do community service regardless of the level of your offense, but typically, felony offenses carry a higher number of community service hours. You will also have to comply with the same restrictions as misdemeanor offenders, such as keeping a job.
What Is the Difference Between Parole and Probation?
Essentially, probation is a sentencing alternative to incarceration while parole is an early release from incarceration. So probation is used instead of incarceration, whereas parole happens after a period of incarceration if a parole board agrees to release you early. However, parole is almost never granted in Florida, due to legislative changes that took place in 1983.
When Can I Receive Probation Instead of Incarceration?
As long as you are eligible, Florida probation laws give judges the discretion to place you in jail or to put you on probation. A skilled lawyer is an invaluable asset under these circumstances. We have convinced many judges to sentence our clients to probation rather than jail time. Some serious crimes, however, do not allow for probation.
Do I Have the Right to a Jury Trial for a Probation Violation?
Unfortunately, no. If you violate a term of your probation you do not have the right to a jury trial to determine if you actually are in violation. Instead, the judge makes that decision. In addition, the prosecution does not have to prove your violation beyond a reasonable doubt. All they need is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the evidence that you violated the terms of your probation must at least slightly outweigh the evidence that you didn’t.
What Happens If I Intentionally Violate Probation?
The intentional violation of any of the terms of probation is a serious matter. Suppose, for example, that you originally committed a crime for which the maximum penalty is two years in prison. If you are allowed probation instead of prison and you intentionally violate the terms of your probation (e.g., by committing a new crime), the judge might sentence you to serve out the maximum two-year prison sentence. A lesser sentence is also possible, but it is completely up to the judge’s discretion.
What Happens If I Violate Probation Accidentally?
Unfortunately, it might be difficult to prove that your violation was unintentional. Suppose, for example, that someone visits your home carrying an illegal drug on their person. Having illegal drugs in your home violates your probation, but what if you didn’t know they were there? Unless it was the mail carrier, how would you establish that you didn’t know the person was carrying drugs?
An experienced lawyer might be able to help convince the court that your violation was unintentional. Your best bet, however, is to stay as far away from any potential violation as you possibly can.
How Can I Get Off Probation Early?
Other than violating probation and being incarcerated (the worst way to “get off” probation), the best way to terminate probation early is to strictly comply with its terms. Once you complete half of the probation time the court sentenced you to, you can file a Motion for Early Termination of Probation. Usually, the court wants to know that you had no violations, you paid off all your offense-related financial obligations (like fines, court costs, and restitution), and that you completed any required treatment programs.
To maximize your chance of early termination of probation, your best bet is to retain an experienced Florida probation lawyer.
Don’t Hesitate to Contact Us一Your Freedom Could Hang in the Balance
Florida criminal prosecutions move quickly, and you could find yourself at a critical disadvantage if you don’t move just as quickly. Call Moses and Rooth at 407-531-8694 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. We are available any time of the day or night. We have over 30 years of combined experience in representing criminal defendants and look forward to discussing how we can best serve you.