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Is Probation a Broadly Fair and Rational Process?

July 30, 2019

We don’t mince words on our website at the established Clearwater criminal defense law firm of Hoskins & Penton when we address the reality of probation for legions of affected individuals.

We directly note this: “It’s like being sentenced without a trial.”

That assessment is roundly borne out by the harsh consequences often suffered by persons on probation who violate – often unknowingly – probationary terms in unquestionably minor ways. Some people miss a single appointment they weren’t aware of. Others might simply show up a few minutes late for a meeting with their probation officer. Even such trivial slip-ups can yield a return trip to jail or even prison.

Experienced defense attorneys who work passionately and aggressively on behalf of individuals who have unsuccessfully tried to comply in every way with often onerous probationary conditions know that the system can be unfair. It is hardly an overstatement to stress that it needs material adjustment.

Researchers who recently completed a voluminous study on probation certainly believe that the system is flawed and needs major changes. The Council of State Governments Justice Center’s report is the largest ever to address probation’s reach and challenges, scrutinizing data from all 50 states. Its conclusions are sobering, and include these central findings:

  • Nearly $3 billion is spent nationally every year locking people up following their commission of merely technical violations

  • Almost half of state-prison readmissions owe to probation/parole violations

The implications of that are clear and stunning, both from a fiscal and moral standpoint. Legions of individuals trying to comply with what one article on the above report terms a lengthy “laundry list of things” can be overwhelmed from the outset. Probation “becomes mission impossible from day one,” says one criminal law expert.

The job of a seasoned and diligent criminal defense team is to do everything legally possible to get a probation offender back on track and in compliance after an alleged violation.

We welcome contacts to our firm and the opportunity to apply our experience on behalf of individuals needing proven advocacy in probation-linked or other criminal defense matters.