Probation Abuses And Realities

A person accused of a crime should be highly motivated to avoid a conviction. When a chance to avoid a prison sentence arises, most people take that chance without a second thought. Unfortunately, the U.S. criminal justice system hides many traps for the unwary. The sentence of probation may be received with relief, but the day-to-day reality of the situation can be overwhelming. Before accepting any plea offer, including one of probation, it is important to understand what you are agreeing to. It may not be what it seems.

Judges have wide latitude in setting the conditions of probation. Even people charged with minor, nonviolent crimes can find themselves in a cycle of debt and jail time with no end in sight. If you can't meet the terms set by the judge, even the unreasonable ones, you will quickly find yourself in serious trouble.

Say, for example, that you are charged with driving under the influence. If you lose your license, you may lose your job. If you lose your job, you may lose your home. With no car and no stable housing arrangement, it can become nearly impossible to make court dates, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and counseling appointments. It can be impossible to pay the court costs and fines included in many of the "services" that are necessary under the terms of your probation. When you inevitably fail to fulfill some aspect of you probation, you will find yourself in jail with a new round of costs and requirements on top of the old.

Probation in lieu of a conviction sounds like an easy option. While it may be your best option, you need to understand the risks before you can make an informed decision. Speak to your criminal defense lawyer before you commit to anything.


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