Answer: A defendant’s conditions can be changed, but the changes aren’t as straightforward as one might think.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Probation Officer Change Your Conditions? (Explained)
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Authority of the Probation Officer
The powers and abilities of the assigned supervising probation officer come from two places: the court’s order of probation and the statutes of the state the defendant’s case are in.
(Or in the situation of a federal case, the laws of the country).
The probation officer is generally given broad authority to make sure the defendant remains compliant.
The defendant is required to give consent to the probation officer to search his person and home.
The PO call call the defendant’s place of employment, verify prescriptions, and demand that the defendant submit to substance abuse testing.
The probation officer can choose whether to ‘violate’ the defendant for the defendant’s failure(s) to follow the rules (which result in a probation violation proceeding).
The probation officer can also ignore the defendant’s struggles or offer solutions to the compliance issues that don’t result in a PV hearing.
But the one thing that the probation officer cannot do on his own is to change the terms or conditions of the probation, release, or any other orders of the court.
Instead, if the probation officer wants to see something different, he’ll have to initiate a proceeding to modify the conditions or requirements of probation so that a judge can order the changes (or not).
Only a judge has the ability to change the orders contained in the court documents.
Defendant’s Role In a Modification
When a judge is asked to change the defendant’s probation order(s), the defendant has a right to be heard on the issue.
A defendant may be asked to simply ‘sign off’ on the changes (meaning agree).
The defendant has the right to say okay, or refuse to sign the document and request a hearing on the topic.
The defendant would have the right to have an attorney represent and assist him during the proceeding.
However, many defendants actually waive their right to an attorney somewhere in the modification process, by signing off on the modification, without realizing that they have the right to have a judge hear the matter.
Should a Defendant Challenge a Modification Request?
We can’t answer that. We don’t know the facts of any particular case or where the reader is located.
There can be good reasons to challenge a probation officer’s modification request, like:
- the evidence/situation supporting the modification request are not true or incomplete
- the modification is motivated by dislike or harassment
- the modification would not serve the ultimate goal of successfully completing probation
- it is the defendant’s right to have a hearing and be heard
There can be good reasons to sign off on a modification, like:
- the evidence supporting the request is true, and will probably result in the requested modification no matter what the defendant says
- the modification would help the defendant remain compliant
- the alternative would be worse (like a motion to terminate probation altogether)
- it would cost too much money in attorney fees to fight
In the end, the defendant has to consult his situation and goals.
If he has questions about whether or not he should ‘sign off’ on the requested modification or challenge it, most would recommend that he confer with an attorney who is experienced in post-judgment criminal matters in the court where the case is being handled.
A local attorney can tell the defendant how things go in that particular court, with that particular judge.
He can also explain to the defendant more about his rights in a modification hearing, as well as what he could do to work toward a successful completion of probation.
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