A person placed on community supervision is subject to certain terms and conditions ordered by the court. The two forms of community supervision in Texas are probation (often referred to as “straight probation”) and deferred adjudication. Both are similar in that they are both a period of time during which a person must follow certain conditions or face the possibility of revocation. A person who violates community supervision will be brought before the court and may face serious jail time.
The standard conditions of probation include not committing any additional crimes, meeting with a community supervision officer, drug and alcohol evaluation and testing, and random urinalysis. Depending upon the type of case, there may be additional conditions including community service, no contact with certain persons, restitution, and taking classes relevant to the type of offense. In DWI cases, a person may be required to install an ignition interlock on his or her vehicle or use a portable breath testing machine. In Harris County, the District Attorney’s Office routinely imposes a “donation” to Crime Stoppers (typically $50) as a condition of probation.
A failure to abide by any of the terms of community supervision may be grounds for revocation.
What Happens If I Violate My Probation?
A person who is violating community supervision will be brought to the attention of the court by his or her probation officer. A motion to revoke probation or deferred adjudication will be prepared and signed by an Assistant District Attorney. At that point, a warrant will issue for the probationer’s arrest. The bail set for probation violations is often high relative to the case.
Once the probationer is arrested or makes bond, he or she will appear in court. In some courts, attorneys representing probationers can discuss with the judge the possibility of reinstatement of probation. In other courts, the judges will not discuss this until a hearing has been held. The District Attorney’s Office may be permitted by the court to make an offer of jail time to a probationer who has violated, but cannot unilaterally reinstate a probation.
If a probationer opts for a hearing, the District Attorney’s Office must prove by only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that there was a violation. After a hearing, the judge may reinstate a probation or sentence the probationer to a jail term. As a practical matter, in most cases a hearing results in a jail sentence. It is a very rare case in which the state cannot prove at least one violation by a preponderance of the evidence or where the judge reinstates community supervision after the violations have been proven. It is generally to the probationer’s benefit to seek a reinstatement prior to a hearing or to work out an agreement with the state.
Does it Matter Whether I Am on Straight Probation or Deferred Adjudication?
Yes. A person on straight probation can only receive a sentence up to the length of the probated sentence. A person on deferred adjudication can receive a sentence anywhere in the range of punishment. For example, a person placed on a five-year probation for a second degree felony (which carries a range of 2-20 years in prison under Texas law), may be sentenced from a minimum of two years to a maximum of five years for a violation (because the length of the probated sentence is five years). A person placed on a five year deferred adjudication for a second degree felony may be sentenced from a minimum of two years to a maximum of 20 years (anywhere in the statutory range of punishment).