Probation Sentences in Florida

Probation is a option that allows a defendant to retain significant freedoms while serving out the term of their sentence as opposed to being incarcerated in prison or jail. Instead, the offender is supervised by a Corrections or Probation Officer operating under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The first “supervision in lieu of jail” sentences date back to almost 200 years ago in the United States with the goal being rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. In Florida, the Office of Community Corrections maintains 130 offices  and supervises more than 164,000 offenders throughout the state. 


 

Types of Probation

Terms & Conditions of Probation

Probation Related Motions

Probation Related Court Hearings

  • Reprimand Hearing
  • Ability to Pay Hearing
  • First Violation of Probation
  • Final Violation of Probation

Probation Violations

Penalties for Violating Probation

  • Reinstatement of Probation
  • Removal from Diversion Program
  • Modification of Probation 
  • Revocation of Probation

Probation Supervision Alternative to Prison Sentence

When a criminal defendant is convicted, the court often supervises that individual by placing them on probation. The Department of Corrections, through a probation officer, subsequently monitors the individual to ensure that they are complying with all of the terms and conditions that the court imposed at the time of sentencing.

County and Circuit court judges have great discretion in determining the terms of probation once a defendant has either pled or been found guilty. However, the penalties imposed by the sentencing judge must be commensurate with the seriousness of the offense. In other words, all conditions must be rationally related to the State Attorney’s need to supervise the defendant and a special condition of probation will be found to invalid if such a condition has no relationship to the crime committed, prohibits activity that is not itself criminal, or forbids behavior that is not reasonably related to future criminal activity. Once the court imposes the conditions of probation, it may not later enhance or add to these conditions absent a violation and subsequent revocation. The court may however, lessen the restrictions imposed on a criminal defendant upon a defense attorney’s filing a motion for modification of probation. Individuals who are successful on probation may also seek to have their probation ended early by having their attorney file a motion for termination.

It is important to know, only the general conditions and conditions imposed by the court comprise of the restrictions to a defendant. Probation officers are precluded from creating new conditions and are entirely without jurisdiction. Individuals who feel that their probation officer has added new conditions not imposed by the court should have their attorney bring this to the attention of the sentencing judge immediately. Failure to bring such activity to the attention of the court can result in their being arrested and held in the county jail before being given the opportunity to be heard.

The payment of fines, costs, and restitution may also be imposed on a probationer which are broken down to monthly payments. An individual’s failure to pay such fines can lead to a violation and revocation of probation where a probationer had the ability to pay and willfully chose not to do so. Before revoking probation, the court must inquire as to the defendant’s employment status, financial resources, and earning ability.

Other unforeseen consequences may be brought to the court’s attention that effectively prevented a probationer from paying a required monthly amount. An inability to pay is absolutely a defense to a violation of probation and should be brought to the court’s attention prior to a warrant being signed by a judge.


Probation Sentences Dominate Florida’s Criminal Justice System

Probationary sentences have evolved to become the most utilized and dominate form of criminal case disposition in our criminal justice system. Over the last century, supervision sentences have been shaped to help solve a vast array of problems that are associated with the way we mange crime as a society. Sentence alternatives to incarceration facilitate plea resolution, promote offender rehablititation and reduce prison overcrowding to a vast extent. Florida’s probation supervision system is crucial to the management of crime throughout the State and is constantly evolving to improve upon the way we manage crime as a society. Types of Probation include:

  • Pre-Trial Intervention which allows for the dismissal of charges for first time offenders.
  • Administrative Probation which does not require any reporting and requires only that the defendant refrain from being arrested again.
  • Standard Probation whereby the defendant must report regularly to an officer and abide by certain conditions set by the sentencing court.
  • Drug Offender Probation which focuses on intense drug and alcohol treatment the completion of which results in a dismissal of all charges.
  • Community Control, commonly referred to as House Arrest, requires a defendant to remain confined to their home under varying levels of surveillance by their supervising officer.
  • Sex Offender Probation which is specifically tailored to protect the public from individuals who have been convicted for sexual related offenses and individuals deemed to be sexual predators.

 

Probation Sentences Serve to Rehabilitate Rather Than Punish

The Florida Supreme Court has stated that the goal of probation is to rehabilitate rather than punish offenders while also protecting the public from further crimes. Although no offender is entitled to a sentence of probation as opposed to jail in Florida, most defendants are offered supervision if they plea either guilty or no contest to the charges pending against them. An accused that choses to fight the allegations against them, however, will rarely, avoid a jail or prison sentence if convicted. 

The court may supervision of an accused rather than prison:

If it appears to the court upon a hearing of the matter that the defendant is not likely again to engage in a criminal course of conduct and that the ends of justice and the welfare of society do not require that the defendant presently suffer the penalty imposed by law. Florida Statutes 948.01


Problems Associated with Being Placed on Probation

While defendants placed on probation generally enjoy their ability to retain most freedoms, there are still significant restrictions placed upon them. In many cases, obligations to preform a specific act such as attendance of treatment or payment of restitution is imposed. Failure to comply completely with any and all conditions of probation will result in their being charged with a Violation of Probation. Violations can be either technical or substantial and are easier for the Prosecutor to prove than the initial offense that you were placed on probation for despite carrying the same maximum sentence should the probationer be found to have willfully and substantially violated the terms of their probation.