- Probation is how the court verifies that a person is complying with post-conviction sentencing requirements.
- Probation can be for 12-24 months for a misdemeanor and 36 months and up for a felony.
- Supervised probation means you are assigned a probation officer to monitor your probation status.
- Probation officers can order searches of a probationer’s home, vehicle, and person, as well as require random drug tests and direct treatment.
This article is from an interview with Utah criminal defense attorney Jason Schatz. This portion is regarding post-conviction probation.
What Is Probation?
Interviewer: Jason, in this segment, we’re going to cover a series of questions involving probation and probation violations. First, for someone who has never been in trouble with the law, how would you explain probation to your client?
Mr. Schatz: Probation means that, when you’re sentenced following a conviction, the court wants to maintain jurisdiction over you for a certain period of time in order to make sure that you actually comply with the terms of the sentence and do the things that you normally are required to do by the court as part of the sentence. Often probation is in lieu of jail time but can follow a jail term. Probation is imposed by the sentencing judge, but legal statutes dictate what offenses can be granted probation and for how long.
Interviewer: So how long can someone be assigned probation?
Mr. Schatz: While there are no limits on probation for misdemeanors or felonies, generally on misdemeanors, the probationary period is anywhere from 6 to 24 months. On felony cases, it generally starts at 36 months and can be an unlimited time under Utah law—but typically it is 36 months.
During that time period, the court can require you to be on what’s called “good behavior” or court probation, which means there’s not a probation officer verifying your compliance or checking in on you or with whom you have to check in. However, the court still keeps your case open, and the court clerk generally will verify that you are following the terms of the probation, meaning paying the imposed fine, performing community service, attending classes, and showing proof to the court within the time that you were given to complete those items.
The court can also place you on supervised probation, meaning that you will actually have a probation officer. On misdemeanor cases, it’s generally done through a private probation provider or through a county probation provider.
Felony cases are handled through the State of Utah’s adult probation and parole. If you’re on supervised probation, there are some additional restrictions to abide by, meaning that you are subject to search and seizure at any time without probable cause or reason to believe you’re violating the law, which means you can be required to submit to a urinalysis. You can also be subject to a search of your person, your car, or your home.
Interviewer: What other power does the probation officer have in a probationer’s case?
Mr. Schatz: The probation officer will be the one verifying whether or not you’re complying with the terms of sentencing and may have some discretion in directing your substance abuse treatments, mental health treatments, or other issues that led to your offense in the first place. Also, he or she will be the one reporting to the court either that you complied with probation or notifying the court and requesting an order to show cause if you don’t comply with the conditions of your probation.
Read about potential conditions or terms of probation.
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