Florida County Raising Probation Fee Rate For Violators: Future For Jacksonville?

The Bay County Commission voted Wednesday on raising probation fees from $45 a month to $50 a month, making anyone convicted of a misdemeanor susceptible to paying more in probation fees this year. In April, the commission signed a three-year contract with Florida Probation Service LLC, a Panama City company, for the county court’s misdemeanor probation supervision service, who’s costs would increase by $5 per month, a cost passed on to the offender.

Jacksonville probation cases can stem from simple violations that the person on probation probably did not know about or was mistaken about. Others can stem from direct violations not only explicit clauses of one’s probation, but direct violations of other laws themselves. No matter what the case, one should not have to suffer tremendously for violations of probation.

One of the hardest charges to deal with is a Florida violation of probation (VOP) or Florida violation of community control. When an individual pleads to a charge and is placed on a period of probation or community control, the judge orders that individual to comply with a multitude of conditions. If one of these conditions is not met, then the individual is violated and can face up to the maximum amount of time for which they are on probation. For instance, if an individual is on probation for a third degree felony and fails to comply with one of the conditions set by the court, a subsequent violation charge can subject that person to up to five years in Florida State Prison.

The State has developed a “zero tolerance” standard that was imposed after a rise in probation violators who were not in custody being able to commit serious crimes; this principle even applies to technical violations. “Technical” violations of probation in Jacksonville can come in many forms. Examples of a technical violation can include:

– failure to meet one’s probation officer when required to do so,
– failure to complete community service hours,
– failure to complete a court ordered program such as DUI school or anger management classes,
– failure to obtain or maintain lawful employment,
– failing a drug test,
– failure to pay fines/costs/restitution

“New law” violations occur when is on probation and is arrested and subsequently charged with a new criminal offense. A “new law” violation can result from any new arrest or charge. One slight infraction can turn into a probation termination and a harsh prison sentence. One of the most common of these infractions is simply an inability to pay one’s court-mandated probation fees, which consequences many times ends up costing more than the actual cost of probation fees.

VOP charges are difficult to deal with for a number of reasons. First, the conditions set by the court are usually numerous and difficult to comply with. Often times the court will set unreasonable time limits or costly fines that are simply too expensive, making the likelihood of successful completion of probation minimal. Second, anything can be used to violate the probation or community control. Failing to meet even one of the conditions, or getting arrested for another charge will be used as a basis to violate. Third, violations are treated differently than a new charge.

VOP charges differ from new charges because the standard the court uses to find one guilty is not beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, the the standard or proof required is a “willful and substantial violation of probation conditions” which is left up to the “conscience” of the court, ie, if the judge thinks one violated probation, one probably did. One does not have the benefit of a jury trial. There is no issue of guilt or innocence on the original charge. The defense of such charges requires knowledge and experience, and a high degree of legal skill.

Usually the courts will try to get a violator to complete his or her conditions and reinstate on a first violation. Without new criminal activity, a violator actually completing terms of probation sometimes outweighs the violator being jailed or imprisoned. With repeat or significant violations one can plan on being locked up. Misdemeanor Duval County probation is monitored by a longstanding contract with the Salvation Army. Felony probationers actually go into the Florida Department of Corrections system. Their information will be on the internet for
public viewing along with their photograph.

Not every accused charged with a probation violation is intending to commit a crime. One in a situation like this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville probation violation defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected.

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Probation fees could rise in Bay Matthew Beaton, The News Herald

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