Probation Is A Trap: Why Doing Time Can Be Better Than Taking Papers

  • Jul 22 2019

Would you rather spend 5 months behind bars or 5 years on probation? If the choice were mine, I would stay in custody. Florida’s probation system is an elaborate trap that will likely force you to spend more time locked up in the long run. 

A Tough Choice

When I was first starting, I assumed that it would always be better to go out on papers and serve probation rather than spend a single second in prison. Now, I believe the complete opposite because my years of experience working as a criminal defense attorney have given me a seasoned criminal’s insight into our criminal justice system. 

Although the thought of going home today is irresistible, and probation sounds like the easy way out, it’s not. Probation is a trap. It is a system designed to make you fail, and when you do, the State can have you locked up for the maximum amount of time the law allows for the underlying charge.

Designed to Fail 

Serving probation is about more than just avoiding criminal activity. It’s agreeing to live your life constrained by the conditions of your release. 

You may be required to do hours and hours of community service or attend some classes the court thinks will help you lead a better life. You must be prepared to show up, pay up (most of these classes aren’t free), and be organized enough to keep all the documents proving you complied with the court’s various mandates. 

You have to live in fear that you will get pulled over for driving too fast or the cops swear you forgot to use your turn signal. Every time you get a ticket you are going to spend time in jail and have to wait and see if the judge thinks what happened is a probation violation.

Whenever you hang out with friends, you will worry they might do something stupid and get you in trouble. The police don’t let people on probation away with just a warning. 

You may not be able to leave the county — not country, county — without the okay of your probation officer. What happens if your boss tells you you have to travel to a job site or get fired and you can’t get in touch with your probation officer, or they say you can’t go?

The power of the probation officer is nearly absolute. Some of them are good people, but like with people in any line of work, some of them are jerks. What are the odds you get stuck with a probation officer that would love nothing better than to catch you in a technical violation — not even a criminal act — just so they can get a pat on the back from their boss for turning you in? 

Not a Risk I Would Take 

I do not think I would be able to go five years without accidentally violating probation and getting locked up again. I would choose to do less time now rather than risk going out on probation and getting sent back in later to serve a longer sentence. 

If you or a loved one has been offered probation, and you are debating what to do, please don’t hesitate to contact my office and schedule a time to discuss your options

Posted in: Probation