Conditions of Probation: What did I sign up for?

By Brian Goza

In criminal practice, cases are frequently resolved by agreement, or “plea bargain”, that calls for the defendant to received either deferred adjudication or a suspended sentence and community supervision. Both of these are what most people call “probation.”
Probation can be in many forms. In some cases, it may be unsupervised where all that is required is that the probationer not violate the law for a couple of months. It can also be very restrictive and last up to ten years. The Judge has the authority to set the terms and conditions of probation in all cases.
In most cases, the terms and conditions of probation are pretty basic and usually include the following:
• Commit no new criminal offenses.
• Avoid harmful or injurious habits. Consume no illegal drugs. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
• Don’t be around people of bad character (other people breaking the law).
• Report to a probation officer, usually monthly.
• Home visits by probation officer.
• Maintain employment.
• Stay within a certain county unless given permission to leave.
• Support all dependents.
• Have no firearms.
• Pay restitution if applicable, and all fines and court costs.
• Perform community service in an amount of hours set by the Judge.
• Submit to urine testing. The urine sample may not be diluted.

Keep in mind that those are the BASIC conditions of probation. Under 42A.301 of the Texas Code of Criminal procedure, following acceptance of the plea agreement by the court, a risk and needs assessment will be performed in most cases. Depending upon the results of the assessment additional conditions may be imposed by the court. These may include:
• Electronic monitoring
• Curfew
• Parenting Classes
• Compliance with CPS conditions
• No contact with certain individuals
• Psychological/ Sexual Evaluation
• Driver Safety course
• Substance Abuse Evaluation that could result in outpatient treatment, Education classes, Residential (inpatient) treatment, AA/NA.
• Speculating caseload (Example: Economic crime as mental health caseload)
• Alcohol monitoring device
• Education classes
• Cognitive classes
• No alcohol
• No contact, or no unsupervised contact with children younger than 17.

To be successful on probation you must follow all the rules the Judge gives you. And, you may not know ALL the rules at the time you are placed on probation. Be sure to ask your lawyer not just what your conditions of probation will be, but what they MIGHT be as well.