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Can I Choose Jail Instead of Probation?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Can I Choose Jail Instead of Probation?

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Why would anyone choose to go to jail when probation is an option? The Texas Commission on Jail Standards recognizes a troubling jail versus probation trend. Some offenders choose lockup instead of community supervision. The most common argument provided by the offender is that probationary conditions are a hassle and probation fees are expensive. They mistakenly believe that time in jail will be shorter than probation. That’s not always the case.

Most people who’ve done any jail time say it’s an emotional and spiritual assault to the system. The majority of those who’ve been incarcerated say it’s worth the personal energy and money to defend the charge and avoid jail time when possible.

Are you facing the possibility of jail or probation? Aggressive criminal defense is essential if you want to preserve your freedom and way of life. Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros today for a free consultation of your case.

However, the primary reason for public health and social scientists’ concern is that offenders in jail don’t get tools and retraining necessary to make better life choices. That is, if you’re charged with a DWI, drug use (personal possession), or family violence but opt to go to jail instead of probation, treatment isn’t a part of the picture unless the offender has the means and motivation to seek it out.

Think carefully before you ask for jail or revoke probation. Each case is different. Why not discuss your matter with an experienced criminal defense attorney now?

How Does Jail Time vs. Probation Work?

A judge won’t prevent the offender from taking jail time over probation. Unfortunately, if the offender indicates a preference for jail time, the judge may give the maximum jail term, plus a fine.

Most offenders with experienced legal counsel don’t ask the court for jail time. The legal argument to the court reflects the facts of the case and the defendant’s history.

Some offenders revoke probation. For instance, Jack enjoys having a beer when he watches football but the terms of community supervision say he can’t use alcohol until he completes probation. What Jack doesn’t know beforehand could affect his future. For instance, Jack will probably lose his driver’s license for at least a year by drinking a beer or two on Sunday. After that, he may need an occupational license plus SR-22 to legally operate a vehicle.

The decision to go to jail and forfeit a driver’s license isn’t the only option. The truth is that judges in Houston and Harris County don’t want to put offenders in jail because it’s too expensive in time or money to successfully complete probation. The judge may be convinced to decrease or waive the monthly fee. He or she may also remove the interlock at six months. However, most offenders can’t and shouldn’t make this pro se motion to the judge.

Discuss personal challenges and concerns with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the court and judge will do a better job of negotiating or revising terms.

Can an Offender Always Choose Jail Over Probation?

The bottom line answer is yes. However, the judge decides on how long the offender must stay in jail.

The defendant and criminal defense attorney must analyze the case. If the defendant admits guilt or the attorney believes it’s inappropriate to enter a not guilty plea, the next step involves the consideration of punishments. The two primary options are jail and probation.

Although it’s probably true that no one wants to spend time in jail, in some cases it may be a reasonable decision to serve jail time instead of probation.

What Are the Secondary Differences between Jail and Probation?

Let’s evaluate a DWI punishment. This is a first-time offense for John. If he accepts probation, he must pay a monthly reporting fee, DWI class fee, court costs and fines, drug or alcohol testing fees, victim’s impact panel fee, payment plan fees, and more. The probation term is typically longer than a jail sentence.

For example, John may receive a 30-day jail sentence or a year’s probation if he is convicted. Harris County may offer credit for each day served in jail, thereby reducing John’s jail time. It may be possible to serve time on weekends or as part of a work release agreement in Houston. Some advantages include:

  • Ability to keep a job and maintain personal life
  • Faster sentence discharge
  • Preferred placement within the County Jail World Release Program may be possible

Before weighing punishment options, discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Pros and Cons of Jail and Probation

Pros and Cons of Jail:

  • Pros: A jail sentence is a finite term. If John faces a DWI conviction, a Class B misdemeanor, he faces from a few days to 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a maximum 100 hours of community service. If John receives a 10-day jail sentence, he will spend significantly less time in jail and community service than a likely probation. If the judge recommends probation, John might receive up to two years plus monthly fees, including education fees, drug and alcohol treatments, drug screening tests, and other items. If John doesn’t have a financial safety net, the decision to go to jail might make sense. He’s likely to pay more for probation over a two-year period than he’d pay in fines.
  • Cons: Jail can be an extremely negative experience. John may develop emotional problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He may “give up” or suffer from depression. He will still have a drug or alcohol problem after release from jail. His problems may affect and the permanent criminal record may limit employment opportunities. If he doesn’t have the means or motivation to get treatment on his own, he may become a repeat offender. That can mean a longer jail term and larger fines for a subsequent offense.

Pros and Cons of Probation:

  • Pros: If John opts for probation, he will receive treatment and education in the process. He is required to perform self-assessment and learn from his mistakes. Because he enjoys greater freedom on probation, John can hold a job and maintain a relatively normal life.
  • Cons: Probation is designed to support John for a longer period of time, but John might not see community supervision in a positive light. He will owe monthly fees. It may be difficult for John to pay fees on time as agreed. He may consider revoking probation because he doesn’t have the means or inclination to pay on time. He must uphold the terms of probation to successfully complete it. Probation is what John makes of it. If he doesn’t use the time in a positive way and use the tools and education available, he might fail to complete probation.

However, it’s important to remember that John might not be convicted of the crime. In that case, John is free to go about his life. He won’t spend time in jail or with a probation officer. An experienced criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between freedom and punishment for John. If you or someone you love has been arrested or has concerns about jail and probation, call The Law office of Greg Tsioros to schedule a free initial case review.

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