A Word About Probation

“I’ll just get probation. . . ”

Many people, especially young people, go to court to face criminal charges with the attitude that “I’ll just get probation.” While many first-time offenders are sentenced to probation, it is not the “free ride” many, especially young people, think it is. It is not unusual for a person sentenced to probation to violate what are often very demanding probation terms.

Furthermore, if you are placed on probation and you violate one of its terms or are charged with a new offense, you may find yourself punished for that violation or new offense before you know what has happened to you. It is important to note that for a probation violation there is no jury; a judge decides if a violation has occurred.  The violation does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Many of the familiar constitutional rights do not apply.

If a judge finds that it is “more likely than not” that you violated some term of probation or committed a new offense, then the judge can, immediately, change the sentence from probation to incarceration.  That means jail.

What’s more, you can be sentenced to jail for a probation violation, and it won’t matter if you are found not guilty of the charge that formed the basis for the violation. Once you are sentenced for violating probation, you will have to serve that entire sentence, regardless of what happens with the new charge.

Probation, especially for young people, is not a “free ride.” It can be onerous and can set you up for failure and more severe punishment.

If you are going to court in Massachusetts to face a criminal charge, even if you think, “I’ll just get probation,” don’t go alone.  You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you and your rights, advise you about your options, and to ensure that you are not being set up for serious consequences down the road.