If you've been convicted of a crime in the state of Florida, you may be facing probation at some point in the future. While there are some similarities between probation and parole, very few people are eligible for parole. As a Florida probation violation lawyer, Matt Shafran of Weinstein Legal has helped hundreds of probationers and parolees defend themselves when they stand accused of a violation. He shares his insights about the probation and parole processes in this article.
Parole vs. Probation – Understanding the Difference
Parole has become an exceedingly rare thing in the state of Florida, but probation is used as a common alternative to incarceration. If you are not already serving a long-term prison sentence, you may be eligible for probation but not parole.
How Does Parole Work in Florida? Parole is a release from prison, but Florida has effectively phased it out of use. In order to qualify for parole in Florida, you must be an inmate who is serving time for:
- Any felony committed before 1983
- A capital felony committed before 1995
According to the Florida Commission on Offender Review, only 4,552 prisoners in the Florida penal system were eligible for parole as of May 31, 2016. Keep in mind, other states may have an active parole system, but Florida has moved to a system where most inmates who receive conditional release are placed on probation.
What Does Probation Entail in Florida?
If you are convicted of a crime, you may be sentenced to probation in lieu of jail or prison time. Furthermore, if you're released from jail or prison ahead of your originally scheduled release date, you can be placed on probation. The courts order probation, and it comes with conditions that you must adhere to.
Florida State Statute 948.03 is the statute that defines the terms and conditions of probation for the state. Keep in mind that federal probation operates under a different system and the guidelines may be different, even if you report to one of the U.S. Parole and Probation offices located in Florida. If you are on state probation, you must:
- Report to your probation officer in accordance with the court guidelines.
- Restrict your movements to the area designated in the court order.
- Attempt to seek employment or hold a job.
- Allow your probation officer to come to your home, workplace, or any other location specified in the guidelines.
- Avoid violating the law or accruing new criminal charges.
- When ordered by the court, make restitution to any victim listed in the order in the amount specified.
- Maintain child support for your children and other dependants.
- Avoid contact with other individuals engaged in criminal activities.
- Make yourself available for random alcohol and drug testing. You will usually have to pay for these tests as a condition of your probation.
- Attend drug treatment programs, anger management programs, or any other course ordered by the court.
- Not be in possession of a firearm. Other weapons may be permitted with the permission of the court.
- Not possess any non-prescription drugs or prescription drugs that aren't prescribed to you by a doctor.
The Florida Department of Corrections Office of Community Corrections oversees the vast majority of probationers throughout the state. They have circuit offices in most of the more populous counties. For instance, the Circuit 15 office oversees Palm Beach County, and the Circuit 17 office oversees Broward. The agency currently supervises 164,000 probationers.
How Can a Lawyer Help You When You're on Parole or Probation?
As you can probably imagine, there are plenty of opportunities to violate your probation. Your probation officer is not your friend. It's their job to make sure that you are adhering to the conditions of your probation. If you violate those conditions, they may refer you to the court for a VOP hearing. Unlike a criminal trial, a VOP hearing is an administrative proceeding that does not require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge determines that you violated your probation, they can add time to your probation (not to exceed your original sentence), order you to return to prison or jail, or add additional restrictions to your probation. You are entitled to representation by a probation violation lawyer, and it's in your best interest to have one in your corner. Your attorney may be able to put your alleged violation in a context that will work in your favor. Having an attorney also shows the court that you are taking the matter seriously, reflecting well on you. Finally, your lawyer can determine whether there are any irregularities in the case against you.
FAQ About Probation in Florida
If you are facing a criminal charge or probation violation in Florida,
criminal defense attorney Matt Shafran will fight for your constitutional rights. The following questions and answers are some of the most common ones he hears from clients who have been accused of crimes and probation violations.
Who Is Eligible for Parole or Probation?
Unless you have been an inmate for over 25 years, you are not eligible for parole in the state of Florida. You may, however, be eligible for probation. Probation may be offered in lieu of jail time or prison time as part of a negotiated plea deal. It may also be a condition of early release from jail or prison — the same way that parole used to work in the state.
Do I Have Any Recourse if My Probation Officer Is Targeting Me?
Some probation officers are more zealous in the pursuit of their duties than others. If you had a more lax probation officer, you might find their replacement to be much more aggressive. Still, you do have rights. If your probation officer makes inappropriate demands, is abusive, harassing, or places demands on you that exceed the court-ordered guidelines, contact a probation violation attorney in your area.
Aggressive Legal Defense for Florida Parole Violation
Attorney Matt Shafran of Weinstein Legal is one of the most respected private criminal defense attorneys in Palm Beach and Broward. He has successfully represented hundreds of defendants and probationers throughout the area. If you are facing criminal charges or believe you may have violated your probation, call today to schedule an initial consultation.