Probation is one type of correctional control that individuals in the United States may be sanctioned with when they are found culpable of violating a law. Others include parole, incarceration, and civil commitment. It's a fairly common consequence – and one that is preferable to stricter forms of supervision and limitations.
Rather than being physically detained in a facility, individuals who are on probation are able to enjoy some freedoms (and resources to help them successfully avoid reoffending, hopefully). They are meant to stay accountable by regularly reporting to their probation officer and adhering to specific terms (for example, someone on probation may not be allowed to be present anywhere controlled substances are used or may need their probation officer's approval before doing a variety of things such as driving somewhere or leaving their city or county. If you are on probation, you might be permitted to use a vehicle to go to work or a volunteer or community service commitment, for example, but you might not be allowed to drive to other locations or at other times of the day or night. These restrictions are aimed at keeping you accountable as you work toward returning to full civilian life on your own.
How Are Parole And Probation Different?
This is a common question, and the answer is somewhat nuanced. If you are “out on parole,” it means you likely were in jail or prison, and because of good behavior or another factor, you were able to be released earlier than your original timeline. This is a good thing. In this case, you likely were offered this consequence as an alternative to serving time in jail or prison and because the court believes you are capable of maintaining some form of limited independence.
While these two scenarios are generally preferable to the alternatives, there are expectations that you are still expected to meet, as well as consequences that may be levied should you fail to meet them. Probation isn't always easy. You may need to stay away from places, people, situations, or substances that tempt you to make poor decisions or reoffend. This does happen, and unfortunately, if you violate the terms of your probation, you could be sentenced to serve time in a correctional facility after all. This is the case for almost 350,000 individuals under community supervision (another term for probation) annually in the United States. Hopefully, you can avoid this.
A Closer Look at Probation in Somerset County
Those placed on adult probation in Somerset County (or any county in New Jersey) are considered to be under court or community supervision. In Somerset County, the Probation Division is charged with ensuring the safety and welfare of the public, as well as children and other family members, by overseeing court orders, supervising those on probation, monitoring their behavior, and stepping in as necessary to help ensure the success of those being supervised.
Terms of Probation
While you are taking steps toward a positive, successful future, you also need to be sure to meet the terms of your probation, including paying fees when they are due. Typically, clients are responsible for paying a monthly probation fee (usually $25) in addition to other court-imposed fines or restitution related to their offense. You will also be meeting with your probation officer as often as requested. This may sometimes take place at your home if a home visit is required. It's also not uncommon to be required to undergo a psychological assessment or drug testing as a condition of your probation. Employment, as well as efforts to attain educational milestones, are also often provisions. The goal isn't just about punishment. One of the key goals of probation is to help you succeed in society once your full freedoms are returned to you.
Probation Can Offer Opportunities to Improve Your Life
You may be offered job training, mental health or substance abuse counseling, addiction treatment, and other opportunities that will hopefully help you continue to succeed and prove you are ready to rejoin full civilian life. Community service, even when required, can be an incredibly humbling experience. Many clients continue to volunteer once they have met the terms of their probation because they have found the experience to be rewarding and fulfilling. Your involvement in these activities shows your probation officer and the court your commitment to a better future.
Violating probation is definitely something you want to avoid. If you are in this position, resist the urge to panic or feel like giving up is the only option. There are concrete steps you can take to limit any consequences. You may have had a family emergency requiring you to violate a term of your probation. Perhaps something happened at work, and you weren't able to get home when required. Or maybe you missed a check-in with your probation officer because of an unavoidable technology malfunction.
Whatever the reason, you should have an opportunity to explain this to the court. You might be summoned to appear in court, but you could also be arrested based on probable cause of violating probation and possibly without a warrant. If you were in violation of probation not for an explainable or excusable reason, you may be in this situation because you reoffended, failed a drug test, ignored a restraining order, or any number of other reasons (other than failing to pay a fine, as this is usually not grounds for a probation violation).
If you are in this situation, you could be kept in jail until your court date arrives if bail is not offered. Your court hearing will be your chance to prove that you did not violate the terms of your probation. Possible outcomes may include having your probation or suspended sentence revoked or amended or being resentenced for your original offense. Your strongest defense at this stage would be a legal representative by your side. Defendants are warned against self-representation in court. But that doesn't mean you aren't a key collaborator in making your case.
Let a Professional Defend You
Keeping track of New Jersey's myriad complex court policies, procedures, and guidelines can become burdensome and time-consuming for someone actively trying to maintain probation, especially if you are focusing on being successful in a job, doing community service, or getting help for an active addiction. It's best for you to stay focused on these life-enhancing endeavors that show your commitment to bettering your future. A seasoned legal representative can much more efficiently prepare your defense. The benefits of having a professional who is familiar with how the court system works in Somerset County and throughout New Jersey cannot be overstated. They can advise you on the wisest courses of action to take in your case and can save you precious time and money, ensuring you meet all deadlines and submit all required forms and documents.
The Lifespan of a Probation Record
If you are or were on probation, you may be wondering how long your record will be public. In New Jersey, courts at the county level keep adult probation records for ten years, and at the municipal level, for five years.
Lawyer for Probation Violations in Somerset County, New Jersey
Have you been accused of violating your probation? If so, take action fast by seeking sound, skilled legal representation. The Lento Law Firm has the ability to advocate for you throughout the New Jersey probation system and courts and can use their experience and knowledge to win a favorable outcome for you.