- Nobody likes being on probation or seeing their probation officer. It sucks, and for the probation officer, it’s the ultimate thankless job. Therefore you should make an extra effort to THANK your probation officer every time you talk to them. Why?
- Like it or not, the probation officers will have a degree of control over your life while you are on probation. They can help you or hurt you in many different ways. You should attempt to be their favorite cheery probationer, to the extent possible.
- Always take full responsibility for your conduct. Judges, prosecutors, and probation officers hate it when people try to make excuses to avoid responsibility. For a DWI, for example, your position should be: “This happened because of the bad choices I made. Nobody made me drink that night, and nobody made me drive. Those were bad choices that I made, and now I have to live with the consequences.”
- Don’t smoke marijuana, or take CBD oil, or consume edibles while you are on probation! DUH! Marijuana is still illegal in all of its various forms in Texas (except some CBD oil), and your probation could be revoked for using it! They usually wait six or eight months, but they can test you for marijuana, alcohol, or drugs at any time! Even CBD oil could cause a probation revocation procedure!
- Standard procedure is to rotate your probation officer every 4-6 months. This is to make sure you don’t get TOO buddy-buddy with any of them. You’ll have to re-establish yourself with each new probation officer.
- The probation officers will review your file every time you meet with them. You want them to see nothing but positive notes in your file.
- It’s kind of ass-kissing, but if it’s your style, you might want to tell your probation officer something like: “I want to be perfect while I’m on probation. How do I do that?”
- Whatever you are required to do, do it early!
- If you run into financial hardship, always pay something every time you report. $5 or $10, with an explanation, should be enough to keep them off your back. Catch up later.
- ALWAYS report to probation. Non-reporting is the surest way to get a warrant for a probation violation. If your probation officer is out to get you, their favorite trick is to tell you that you shouldn’t even report to probation unless you have caught up on all your fees, or completed all of your classes, or something like that. Judges generally won’t revoke your probation for being late on something, but they will revoke your probation for missing probation meetings! If your probation officer ever tells you something that is contrary to your probation order, tell them to put it in writing (they won’t!) Cover your butt at all times!
- Your probation officer might issue a Motion to Revoke (MTR) your probation, or more likely get the DA to issue a MTR for them, but only the judge can actually revoke your probation. If a MTR has been filed, or a warrant issued, or if you have made bond on a MTR – you are STILL on probation and subject to reporting, paying probation fees, and all the other conditions of our probation. Until you see the judge and the judge personally revokes your probation you are still on probation.
- Probation must follow your probation order just as much as you do. If they ask you to do something not on your probation order, either just do it to keep the peace, or call me. But don’t just blow it off!
- You can always go back to see the judge in court, either with or without me, for clarification about your probation requirements. In my experience, judges actually appreciate people seeking clarification, as long as they are honest and respectful, and not just bitching.
- True or not, everybody in the system (judges, probation officers, prosecutors, court personnel) wants to think that probation is beneficial to the probationers. So if you ever discuss probation with anyone within the system, your attitude should always be: “It’s been a very positive experience. I’ve learned a lot and it’s made me a better person.” (I know – try not to puke!)
- Every person in the court system has opportunities to either help you or harm you. You want to remain on everybody’s good side until your probation is over. Bailiffs, court clerks, court administrators, court reporters - even maintenance crew – they all can either put in a good word for you or put a knife in your back. So be nice to everyone until your probation is over!
- In most cases, judges have the authority to shorten your probation or loosen the restrictions at any time. Or make it unsupervised at any point. Once you are halfway through your probation you should ask your probation officer if you could be considered for unsupervised probation or some reduced restrictions (interlock removal, for example.) Sometimes a probation officer will loosen conditions on their own, and sometimes they may recommend that to the judge, who will probably follow any request or recommendations your probation officer makes. Or you may want to hire me to file a motion. But ask your probation officer first. Why pay if you can do it for free?
- You can also hire me to file a motion to reduce your probation conditions.
- Generally, only perfect probationers can expect early release or special treatment. Probation conditions are generally not reduced if you have ANY problems while on probation, regardless how minor those problems are.
John Gioffredi, Criminal Defense Attorney
Dallas, Texas (214) 739-4515 Rev. September 23, 2021