Probation / Community Supervision in Texas
Community supervision (commonly called probation) is an alternative to incarceration in a jail or prison as punishment for a crime. Texas has two forms of probation: straight probation, and deferred adjudication probation.
What is “straight” probation?
Straight probation happens when a person is convicted, either after a trial or as a result of a guilty plea, and sentenced to spend a specific amount of time in either jail or prison. A judge can order the jail or prison sentence to be “suspended” and place the person on probation instead of serving the time in a correctional facility. The judge will impose conditions of probation that the person will have to follow while on probation. These conditions will vary depending on the county the person is in and the offense for which they have been convicted, but they typically include reporting to a probation officer, staying out of trouble with the law, performing community service, and participating in educational programs. With straight probation, the person has a conviction on their record, but avoids serving their sentence in jail or prison.
What is “deferred adjudication” probation?
Deferred adjudication probation avoids not only serving jail or prison time, but also avoids having the conviction on your record. With deferred adjudication, a person pleads guilty to the offense they have been charged with, but instead of finding the person guilty and sentencing them, the judge defers a finding of guilt and places them on deferred adjudication probation for a set amount of time. Essentially, what the judge is saying is that I could find you guilty right now, but I'm going to set that on the shelf over here for this amount of time. If you do everything you're supposed to do and stay out of trouble, at the end of that time I will dismiss your case.
What happens if I violate the terms of my probation?
For both types of probation, getting arrested for a new charge or violating any of the conditions of your probation can cause serious problems. If this happens, the State can ask the judge to terminate your probation. What happens next depends on whether you are on straight or deferred adjudication probation. For straight probation, the State will file a motion to revoke probation. If you are on deferred adjudication, the State will file a motion to proceed to adjudication. In either case, you will be entitled to a hearing where the State will have to prove to the judge that you violated a condition of your probation. If the judge finds you that you violated the probation, the judge will impose a sentence. For straight probation, the judge can sentence you up to the amount of your original sentence which was suspended. For deferred adjudication, there was no sentence imposed, so the judge can find you guilty and sentence you to any amount of time within the range of punishment for the offense, as well as impose a fine up to the maximum for the offense.
Can I get off probation early?
In most cases, Texas law allows for the early termination of probation. However, the decision is completely at the judge's discretion and a judge can deny early release from probation even if the probationer meets all of the requirements.
The rules for early release depend on whether a person is on straight or deferred adjudication probation.
Early release from straight probation
For straight probation, the judge may (but is not required to) terminate the probation early if the probationer meets the following requirements:
- Completed at least one third of the probation period or two years, whichever is less (many judges will not consider motions for early termination of probation until the probationer has served half of the probation period);
- Not delinquent in the payment of restitution, fines, fees, or court costs (most judges require these fees to be completely paid off before they will grant early termination);
- All court-ordered treatment, counseling, classes, and community service must be complete; and
- Must not have been convicted of a disqualifying crime. Disqualifying crimes are:
- offenses under Sections 49.04-49.08, Penal Code (this includes DWI and related intoxication offenses);
- offenses which require registration as a sex offender; or
- a felony described by Article 42A.054.
Early release from deferred adjudication probation
For deferred adjudication probation, the judge may (but is not required to) terminate the probation and dismiss the case at any time if the judge determines that doing so is in the best interest of society and the defendant. There is no minimum time or waiting period. The only limitation on this is that the judge may not terminate the probation early if the person has been charged with a crime that would require them to register as a sex offender.
It is important to note that as a matter of personal policy many judges will impose the same requirements for an early release from deferred adjudication as from straight probation.
Talk to an experienced probation attorney
If you or a loved one are facing a probation revocation or would like to be released from probation early, call 888-403-0383 to discuss your situation with attorney Rob Keating.