What is Probation?
The best definition I have come across for the word probation is “conditional freedom”. When you are on probation you have your freedom, but it is subject to conditions. If you keep all the terms and conditions of your probation then at the end of the period of probation your probation will be terminated and you will be discharged from any further responsibility to the Court on the case. If you violate any of the terms or conditions of your probation then you can be brought back before the judge and if the Judge finds, after a full hearing, that you in fact violated one or more of the terms or conditions of your probation then the judge has many options. See below.
How Long Does Probation Run?
Probation runs for as long as the Judge orders. It is typical for a judge to set the exact start date and the exact end date of probation. The standard form “Order of Probation Conditions” that is used in all District Courts in Massachusetts has a Probation Start Date block and a Probation End Date block which the Judge fills in. At the very least the Judge must set the length of time that the Probation is to run and when the Probation is to begin. This can become a “gray area” when a Judge orders that the period of Probation is to begin after person “finishes a sentence”. Does that mean probation begins when a person is paroled or does it mean that the probation begins when the parole is finished? There is nothing in the law that limits the length of time that a Judge can order the term of probation to run. (There are some exceptions to that rule; for example, the first offense DUI Statute limits the term of Probation to two years.)
What are the Standard Conditions of Probation in Massachusetts?
The standard form “Order of Probation Conditions” that is used in Massachusetts has the following conditions:
- Obey all court orders and all local, state, and federal laws, including any support orders.
- Report to your probation officer at such times and places as he or she requires, and make no false statements to your probation officer. (Reporting, at the discretion of the probation officer, can be in person, or by mail, or by phone. Reporting can be as often as daily or none at all.)
- Notify your probation officer within 48 hours if you change residence or employment.
- Pay any ordered Probation Supervision Fees monthly or, if permitted by the court perform community service monthly. (Presently the standard monthly probation supervision fee is $65.00 per month.)
- If you have been placed on Probation for a felony offense then you must submit a DNA sample to the State Police and pay the DNA Data Bank Fee ($105.00); if you have been convicted of a registerable sex offense, then you must register with the Sex Offender Registry Board and comply with all the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration law.
- You must sign all releases necessary for supervision and verification of compliance. (For example, if a special condition of your probation requires that you enroll in drug treatment, then you must sign a release that allows the drug treatment program to communicate with the Probation Department so that the Probation Department can verify that you are in treatment.)
- You must allow the probation officer to visit you in your home with or without notice.
- You must report to your probation officer within 48 hours after you are released from any incarceration.
- You are NOT to leave Massachusetts unless you get the express permission of your probation officer and sign a waiver of rendition. (This means exactly what it says. People who are on Probation in Massachusetts cannot lawfully leave the state unless they either have blanket permission from the Judge to travel out of state or they get express permission from their probation officer and sign a waiver of rendition.)
Special Conditions of Probation
The standard “Order of Probation Conditions” used in Massachusetts has the following additional special conditions which can be tailored and picked from on a case by case basis:
- EMPLOYMENT/SCHOOL: Remain employed or make reasonable efforts to obtain employment or attend school, and provide verification. (Probationers are usually required to submit written proof each month of where they are employed [a pay stub] and where they are living [a utility bill or rent receipt].)
- WORK/SCHOOL VISITS: Allow the probation officer to visit your place of employment or school with or without notice.
- SUBSTANCE ABUSE EVALUATION/TREATMENT: Submit to and complete a substance abuse evaluation, treatment, and aftercare at either a non-residential or residential program.
- DRUG/ALCOHOL TESTING: Remain drug free. Remain Alcohol free. Submit to random testing as required.
- MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATION/TREATMENT: Submit to a mental health evaluation. Complete any mental health treatment that is recommended and take medications as prescribed.
- SPECIFIC PROGRAMS: Complete the following program(s), including any aftercare:
- DWI First Offender Program (Presently 16 weeks of out-patient treatment)
- DWI Second Offender Program (2 weeks in-patient residential program)
- Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program (40 weeks)
- Anger Management Program
- Any other program ordered by the Judge.
- NO CONTACT/STAY AWAY: Have no contact with a named person or persons and stay a specified distance away from the person(s) or a particular place or places.
- COMMUNITY SERVICE: Perform a specified number of hours of community service, which must be documented.
- HOME CONFINEMENT: Submit to home confinement with electronic monitoring. [Sometimes a probationer can be confined to his house 24 hours per day seven days per week. Sometimes the judge sets hours when the probationer can be outside the home to go to work.)
- OTHER CONDITIONS: This is where the Judge can add any additional conditions that the Judge feels are warranted in the case.
- FINANCIAL PAYMENTS: The “Order of Probation Conditions” has an area where the Judge writes in all your financial responsibility to the Court. How much you owe and when it is due.
What Happens if You Violate any Term or Condition of Probation?
When the Probation Officer feels that you have violated a term or condition of probation the Probation Officer can do nothing or give you a warning or serve you with a Notice of Alleged Violation of Probation or have you arrested. If you are arrested or served with a Notice of Violation of Probation then the following occurs:
- You are brought before a Judge and Probation can request that you be detained [held without bail] while the Probation Revocation Proceedings are pending in Court. The Judge makes a preliminary determination as to whether or not there is probable cause to believe that you violated probation. If the Judge finds Probable Cause then you can be ordered held [detained] until there is a final hearing.
- The final probation revocation hearing is a full hearing before a judge. Witnesses are called and the Judge makes a factual determination as to whether or not you violated Probation. If the Judge determines that you did not violate probation then your probation remains in place and the Notice of Alleged Violation is dismissed. If the Judge finds that you did violate a term or condition then the Judge can do many things:
- The Judge can simply reprobate you (that is, make no changes in your probation).
- The Judge can extend the term of probation (that is, make your probation last for a longer period of time).
- The Judge can change the conditions of probation and add or delete conditions.
- The Judge can assess you a fine or court costs.
- The Judge can revoke your probation and incarcerate you.
- The Judge can terminate your probation and order you discharged from any further responsibility in the case.
What to do if You Violate Probation?
If you in trouble for having allegedly violated probation you should contact the Attorneys at Lewin and Lewin. Both Attorney Robert Lewin and Attorney Joshua Lewin have vast experience in handling Probation Violation Proceedings.