A Guide to Understanding Probation in Florida

Thousands of people each year are put on probation in Florida. Supervised by the Office of Community Corrections, individuals on probation in Florida have to follow the rules – or face the consequences.

Most people understand that they have to see a probation officer (PO), but there is much more to know to ensure you follow the court’s guidelines.

Are you facing probation? Do you have several questions such as “What is probation in Florida?” or “How much does probation cost in Florida?” Here’s what you need to know.

What is Probation in Florida?

Probation in Florida has mandated supervision ordered by the court. It is a legal punishment that keeps you out of jail or prison. Most of the time, but not in all situations, it can also be an alternative to house arrest.

Some strict terms and conditions must be met, including mandatory meetings with a probation officer (PO) from the Office of Community Corrections. If you do not meet the terms and conditions of your probation, you could face jail or prison, depending on the severity of your offense.

Probation and Felony Probation: What’s the Difference?

Aspect Probation Felony Probation
Severity of Offense Misdemeanors or less severe crimes Severe crimes classified as felonies
Supervision Level Standard supervision, regular PO meetings Increased supervision, more frequent PO meetings
Financial Obligations Lower fines and court costs Higher fines, court costs, and restitution
Rehabilitation Programs May include some rehabilitation requirements Stringent programs like drug/alcohol rehab, anger management
Community Service Fewer hours required More extensive community service requirements
Additional Conditions Basic conditions (employment, no new offenses, etc.) Electronic monitoring, curfews, stricter travel restrictions

People facing misdemeanors or felonies may receive probation. But there is a difference between probation and felony probation in Florida. Since felonies are more severe offenses, the terms and conditions are more severe.

All probationers typically have to pay fines, court costs, and restitution and see their PO. With felony probation, the fines are higher, and you generally have to see your PO more often. Other requirements of felony probation can include a stringent rehabilitation program, such as drug/alcohol rehab or an anger management program, and more community service hours than a person who is not facing a felony.

Who Can Get Probation in Florida?

Generally speaking, people convicted of a minor or non-violent crime can get probation in Florida. Also, those who do not have a prior criminal record (first offenders) may also receive it from the courts.

Another circumstance in which an individual may get probation is someone who has already been incarcerated. Probation may be used, in certain circumstances, to serve out the rest of a sentence.

Anyone who may have an option for probation should work with a skilled criminal defense attorney to advocate on their behalf to avoid incarceration or serve out the rest of a sentence as a free individual.

What Types of Probation Are There in Florida?

There are five major types of probation in Florida.

Type of Probation Terms Conditions Frequency of Reporting Supervision
Standard Probation Regular reporting Maintain employment, avoid new offenses Monthly Regular check-ins, possibly random visits
Administrative Probation No regular reporting Similar to standard probation but less frequent Minimal, mainly administrative Minimal, administrative check-ins
Drug Offender Probation Includes standard terms Substance abuse program, random drug testing Bi-weekly or weekly Intensive, focused on substance abuse rehabilitation
Sex Offender Probation Standard terms + sex offender conditions Sex offender treatment, no contact with minors Weekly or bi-weekly Strict, with special PO trained for sex offenders
Community Control Constant supervision (house arrest) Must stay at home except for approved activities Daily, often with electronic monitoring Continuous, with regular home visits and electronic monitoring
  1. Standard probation (standard terms, reports regularly to PO)
  2. Administrative probation (more lenient, doesn’t have to report to PO)
  3. Drug offender probation (standard terms/reporting, any conditions, substance abuse program, random drug tests)
  4. Sex offender probation (standard terms, any conditions, sex offender treatment program, special PO)
  5. Community control (“house arrest,” constant supervision, any conditions)

The type of probation you receive would depend on the circumstances of the offense, any prior criminal history, and other potential factors. A criminal defense attorney advocates on your behalf and can speak to the judge regarding leniency.

What Are the Probation Rules in Florida?

The standard terms and conditions of probation are determined by Florida statute. The rules include:

  • Regularly reporting to your probation officer
  • Keeping a job during probation
  • Supporting your dependants financially
  • Refraining from committing new offenses
  • Not associating with anyone involved in criminal activity
  • Not possessing or using any firearms
  • Staying in a particular area ordered by the court
  • Paying restitution to anyone you have harmed during the commission of a crime
  • Allowing your probation officer to randomly visit your home, workplace, etc.
  • Not using controlled substances
  • Submitting to random alcohol/drug testing

Florida Probation Violation: What Happens If You Violate Your Probation

A violation of probation in Florida is serious. You will typically be arrested, and this could result in jail time. Violation of felony probation is particularly serious. You could be remanded to prison to serve out the rest of your original sentence. Additional charges could be filed whether you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Additional penalties could be placed, including fines, new (and more restrictive) terms, and additional time in the length of your probation.

Examples of Common Probation Violations:

  • Missing Appointments: Failing to meet with your probation officer as scheduled.
  • Failed Drug Tests: Testing positive for illegal drugs or alcohol.
  • New Criminal Activity: Committing new offenses while on probation.
  • Non-payment: Failing to pay fines, restitution, or supervision fees.
  • Travel Violations: Leaving the jurisdiction without permission.
  • Associating with Criminals: Being in contact with known criminals or gang members.
  • Curfew Violations: Breaking curfew restrictions imposed by the court.

Steps to Take If You Violate Your Probation:

  1. Contact Your Attorney:
    • Legal Advice: Immediately contact your criminal defense attorney for advice and representation.
    • Representation: Your attorney can help present your case in the best possible light at your violation hearing.
  2. Gather Evidence:
    • Documentation: Collect any evidence that can explain or justify your actions (e.g., medical records, employment documents).
    • Witnesses: Prepare any witnesses who can testify on your behalf.
  3. Compliance Efforts:
    • Show Effort: Demonstrate your efforts to comply with probation terms (e.g., attending rehabilitation programs, maintaining employment).
    • Rectify Issues: If possible, rectify the violation before the hearing (e.g., paying overdue fines).
  4. Prepare for Hearing:
    • Understand Process: Familiarize yourself with the hearing process and what to expect.

Present Defense: Be ready to present your defense and any mitigating circumstances.

Florida Probation FAQs

What happens if I violate probation accidentally?

  • Proof Challenges: Proving an accidental violation can be challenging, as the burden of proof lies with the probationer to demonstrate that the violation was not intentional.
  • Legal Representation: Having a good criminal defense lawyer on your side is crucial to convince the judge of your intentions and circumstances.
  • Possible Consequences: Even accidental violations can lead to a probation violation hearing, and without proper defense, you could face penalties similar to intentional violations.
  • Examples of Accidental Violations: Missing a meeting due to a medical emergency, unknowingly associating with a criminal, or a misunderstanding of probation terms.

What happens if I violate probation intentionally?

You could be facing serving out the original maximum penalty of the offense. Avoid violating probation.

What is the difference between parole and probation?

  • Probation:
    • Alternative to Incarceration: Probation is an alternative to serving time in jail or prison, allowing individuals to remain in the community under supervision.
    • Court-Ordered: Imposed by a judge as part of sentencing for a crime.
    • Conditions: Includes regular reporting to a probation officer, maintaining employment, and complying with other court-ordered conditions.
  • Parole:
    • Early Release: Parole is the conditional early release from prison, allowing the individual to serve the remainder of their sentence under community supervision.
    • Parole Board Decision: Granted by a parole board based on behavior and rehabilitation progress in prison.

Supervision: Parolees must report to a parole officer and comply with specific conditions similar to probation.

How much does probation cost in Florida?

Costs can add up to thousands of dollars with fines, court fees, and monthly supervision fees. The longer you are on probation, the more expensive it is.

How Long Does Probation Last?

Probation can be quite lengthy. On average, probation in Florida lasts 3-15 years, depending upon the offense. If you have a good lawyer, they can advocate on your behalf to get the best outcome possible. You may also be able to get off probation early through a filing of a Motion for Early Termination of Probation.

Can You Leave the State While On Probation?

There are typically geographic limitations in terms of your probation, which can mean county or state or other limitations such as house arrest. Generally speaking, you must get permission from your probation officer to leave the state.

What to Do If You Need Help with Your Case

Everyone has the right to legal representation. Whether you have recently been arrested and are trying to avoid jail or prison time or are currently on probation in Florida and are hoping to be able to get off probation early, contact an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney.

Contact the law office of Dean Tsourakis. Call 727-785-2700 today for a free consultation.