Ins and Outs of Probation Laws in Texas


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Many criminal defendants in Texas receive probation as part of their criminal sentence or as an alternative to incarceration. While receiving probation is commonplace, it is important that criminal defendants understand how this process works and how it may affect them.

Plea Process

Many defendants receive probation as part of a plea agreement that their criminal defense lawyer makes with the prosecutor on the case. The criminal defense lawyer is responsible for explaining the nature of the charges against the defendant. A plea agreement results in the defendant usually pleading guilty to something, so a criminal defense lawyer must ensure that the defendant understands the charges that the defendant is pleading to.

During this process, the criminal defense lawyer will review relevant documents with the defendant, including the judgment and stipulation of evidence. He or she will explain which constitutional rights the client is waiving, such as the right to have a full trial. The criminal defense lawyer also explains the terms of the defendantís probation. These terms describe affirmative things that the defendant must do as well as prohibited things that he or she cannot do.

Terms of Probation

There may be many terms of probation. Generally, the defendant will be required to see a probation officer on a regular schedule. He or she may be required to pay fees or restitution. He or she may be required to submit to drug testing. He or she may have to take part in anger management, counseling, domestic violence education or other educational programs. These terms are important because they are what conditions the defendant to be able to receive probation. If the defendant violates the terms of probation, he or she can have probation revoked. This can result in the defendant receiving the alternative sentence that he or she would have received without the plea agreement.

Best Practices

To avoid the possibility of the revocation of probation or other negative consequences, follow the guidelines below. These are best practices to help individuals avoid further problems in the criminal justice system.

Complete Your Requirements Early

You may be required to complete various aspects of probation that have a time limit. For example, you may be required to complete a certain number of community service hours, anger management classes or drug awareness classes. Try to get these requirements out of the way as quickly as possible. You may also be able to pay your fees early. You never know if a situation may come up in the future that may impact your ability to finish your requirements. Also, you may be eligible to terminate your probation early, so if you have met all of the conditions, you will be in a better position for this relief.

Discuss Any Logistical Concerns

Talk to your criminal defense lawyer about any logistical concerns that you have before you enter into the plea agreement. You may be able to include exceptions or conditions in your plea agreement if your lawyer is aware of these challenges and discusses it with the prosecutor. For example, if you are sentenced in one county, you may want to transfer probation to the county where you live. If you need to travel out of state for work or school, let your lawyer know now. Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to request an exception or exemption for you, such as lifting a curfew on weeknights or being restricted from travel.

Abstain from Drugs and Alcohol

Your probation terms and conditions likely outline that you are not able to use drugs or alcohol. Follow these instructions carefully. Some probation agreements require monthly urinalysis. Others may be subject to random testing. Some counties go so far as to require probationers to call every day to see if they are required to submit to a random urine test.

Get Reliable Transportation

Before agreeing to probation, be sure that you have reliable transportation lined up. This may be your own vehicle, a trusted friend or family member who agrees to take you to your required visits and sessions or public transportation. You do not want to have your probation revoked because you were a few minutes late to see your probation officer.

Follow All Requirements

Even if you think that your probation officer will not check up on you or you do not believe a required class will be useful, be sure that you fulfill all your requirements of probation. Your probation contract may give your probation officer the right to conduct random home checks on you or to contact third parties to ensure that you are completing your requirements.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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