Probation in Florida: Learn the Rules of Probation, Learn Your Rights

Probation in Florida is a punishment that may help an offender to avoid jail time or to serve less time, when used in conjunction with it. The punishment aspect of this penalty is the adherence to certain terms and sometimes a probation officer’s supervision.

It’s also a way to monitor the actions of someone on probation in South Florida. So if he or she breaks the law or violates one of the terms, it could result in being resentenced and spending time behind bars.

Those who generally qualify for probation are individuals convicted of a nonviolent or minor crime, along with those who don’t have a criminal history, according to the rules of probation. Or if someone has already served time, the rest of his or her sentence could be served out through probation.

A heartening fact about probation in Florida is that during 2011, for the third consecutive year, the number of adults under community supervision declined.  At year end 2011, there were about 4,814,200 adults under community supervision, down 1.5 percent or 71,300 offenders from the beginning of the year, according to the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Types of Probation in Florida

There are two main types, misdemeanor and felony probation. Although the terms vary for each person, they will be different especially when it’s a misdemeanor versus felony. A criminal defense attorney would be fluent in misdemeanor and felony law.

One of the biggest differences is that felony probation is generally longer. This type lasts about three to five years, compared to misdemeanor probation lasting one to three years for the malefactor for attempted justification.

It’s not uncommon for a time reduction to be requested when the person has served about half the length of the probation. It may be granted if the terms were met and there were no violations.

Another difference between these two main types is that meetings with a probation officer are more frequent with a felony. Sometimes those on misdemeanor probation rarely hear from their officer. But when they do, contact is generally infrequent.

Probation also can be unsupervised, either by a probation officer or an attorney. Despite not having to report to someone, those serving probation still must adhere to terms and conditions, according to the rules of probation.

House arrest and having to wear a monitoring device are other ways that probation can be enforced. If drugs or alcohol were involved in the crime, rehabilitation or counseling might be required.

Terms of Probation in Florida

The terms of probation vary from one case to another. Some are fairly common, such as obeying the law, showing up at scheduled meetings with the probation officer and abiding by court orders (such as the payment of fines).

Other terms are specific to the individual. They may address issues such as abstaining from drugs or alcohol, submitting to drug or alcohol tests, avoiding certain locations or persons, and restricted travels. Sometimes a criminal defense lawyer can argue for a lesser punishment.

Penalties for Violation of Probation in Florida

Violating probation is serious, especially with a felony charge. In either type, additional charges could be filed when one is released from detention.

With felony probation, any original sentencing of prison time could be enforced. However, even violating misdemeanor probation could result in a few months in jail. Other penalties for probation violations include an extension of the probation period, payment of fines and new terms being added.

According to the South Florida Department of Corrections, about 115,000 offenders are supervised under some form of probation. They also report that the top five primary offenses for community supervision include murder/manslaughter, sexual offense, robbery, violent offense and burglary. Length of supervision for probation in Florida ranges from almost four years to 15 years.