If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you might have to be on probation as an alternative to jail – or sometimes in addition to jail.
Now, probation is obviously a better option than spending months or years confined in a jail cell, not being able to see and contribute to your family. But in addition to its apparent advantages, probation – like anything – also comes with disadvantages. Just because it’s a “lighter” sentence doesn’t mean probation should be taken lightly. You should take your probation seriously, because oftentimes it’s set up for you to fail.
Probation in Minnesota can be supervised or unsupervised, and depending on your particular crime, it could last anywhere from a few months to a few years to maximum probation term of 40 years. Yes, that’s right, 40 years!
Once the term is established, you then have to worry about the conditions of your probation. Minnesota judges have a huge amount of discretion to enforce a wide variety of conditions that are often limiting and restrictive, such as:
- Electronic monitoring
- Not breaking the law
- Reporting to your probation officer
- Drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment
- Mental health evaluation and treatment
- Restitution payment
- Community service
- Drug testing
- Correctional fees
- Maintaining a steady job
And so on and so on. Since there are no set probation conditions, your conditions could be different from someone else’s conditions – even for the exact same crime. The judge might look at your criminal history and other factors to determine your conditions, or they might randomly and unfairly assign conditions based simply on how you look or how they feel that day. It really can be that arbitrary.
But regardless of why the judge decides on those conditions, once your probation conditions are set, you need to make sure you don’t violate them. Otherwise, under Minnesota law, the court can revoke your probation without notice and you can be taken into immediate custody.
Seems pretty unjust, right?
That’s why, if you are on probation, it’s crucial that you follow the conditions for the duration of your probation term to ensure that your case is closed for good. So here are 4 tips for how to survive your probation.
- Establish a good relationship with your probation officer. A probation officer has a lot of power – sometimes too much power – over you and your freedom. If you make a mistake, your probation officer can recommend revoking probation. No one wants that. If you have a good relationship and attitude, though, your probation officer might give you the benefit of the doubt.
- Keep all of your probation appointments. Make sure you always know when and where you need to report to your probation officer as well as any mandated classes or treatments. And then plan to be there early so there are no issues. Missing any kind of meeting can result in a probation violation, so it’s better just not to do it.
- Keep all probation receipts and paperwork. Whenever you pay fines, restitution, or correctional fees, keep every receipt so you have a record that it’s been paid. That way no one can say you didn’t Also make sure you have records of when you meet with your officer or attend any mandatory classes, treatments, etc.
- Don’t break the law. Don’t break the law for any reason, but pay extra attention when you’re driving. If a police officer stops you for rolling past a stop sign or having an out-of-date registration, they’ll figure out you’re on probation and tell your probation officer. Again, not particularly fair, but that’s the way it is.
Even though it feels like you might not be able to do anything while on probation, just remember that it doesn’t last forever. And if you do happen to violate your probation, the best tip is to immediately contact a skilled Minnesota probation violations attorney to make sure your probation doesn’t get revoked.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).