How is probation different from a jail sentence? What can I expect while on probation? (Madeline Porter)
While this process will generally apply to both misdemeanor felony cases, I’m going to focus specifically on how this applies to misdemeanor cases for this video. So, the way I explain this to my clients is that it’s kind of like a game show where we have door number one, door number two, and door number three. Behind door number one is jail time. If you receive a jail sentence on a case, basically you go to jail, you serve your sentence, and when you’re released, you’re done, that’s it. And in addition to that, you’re usually not even going to spend the actual amount of time as is reflected in your sentence. There’s a lot of good time credit. For example, right now in Smith County, inmates are typically receiving three for one good time credit which means on a sixty-day sentence, you would typically only serve twenty days, and when you’re done, you’re done. There are no, no follow up, no conditions. Behind door number two, we have probation or straight probation as you might hear it called. And the way that works is it’s kind of like gambling. You are wagering the maximum amount of jail time for your offense level’s punishment range that you’re going to do probation and that you’re going to do it right. You’re going to follow all the conditions and pay all the fees associated with being on probation. Now, when you’re on probation, there are a lot of conditions. You have to meet with your probation officer, usually once a month. You’re paying a probation fee, and you’re drug tested both monthly when you meet with your probation officer and randomly using the color system. Basically, you’re assigned a color, and they pick a new color everyday and if your color comes up, you have to drug test that day before whatever time they give you. If you want to leave the county, you have to get permission. You have to do community service hours. There are classes you might have to take. You might have to pay restitution. There are a lot of conditions, and the conditions will be different for each case. And there are fees associated with that, like I said. For a twelve-month probation term, that’s not for a DWI case, you can expect to pay about fifteen hundred dollars just in probation fees over that time period. And for a DWI case, it’s going to be closer to around twenty-five hundred dollars on a twelve-month probation term. Now, behind door number three is another type of probation. We call it—it’s deferred adjudication probation, or we sometimes call it probation plus. It works the exact same way as regular probation, but there’s an added bonus: if you successfully complete it and do everything right, not only do you avoid jail time, but your case basically gets dismissed. And then, if you meet other certain criteria, you can ask the court for what’s called an order of non-disclosure. And what that does is that’s going to seal your court records and your arrest record. And this is a great incentive. Because not only do you stay out of jail, but it lets you keep your records sealed and this is great for first time offenders, people with different licenses like teachers and nurses. It’s also great for college students, you know. You got picked on, maybe you had a little bit of marijuana or something like that, you got into a fight after, you know, a college party or something like that—you don’t want that to destroy your life and be on your record forever, so it gives some added incentive to do probation and to complete it successfully. And those are the three options that you have when you’re going on misdemeanor probation or if you’re receiving a misdemeanor jail sentence, but before deciding which of those three options is the best for you, you need to talk to an experienced attorney. We can help you decide which one of those is going to be the best fit for you and your life and help you make the best choice for you. One size doesn’t fit all and different options are better for different people. So give us a call and we can help you make that choice.