Answer: The probation officer doesn’t have the power to extend a defendant’s probation, but he can ask the court to do it.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Probation Officer Extend Your Probation? (Explained)
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Introduction To Probation
Probation is a consequence/punishment resulting from a criminal conviction.
Probation has several purposes:
- Punishment for the crime (justice)
- Reform the defendant (change)
- Prevent recidivism (no more crimes)
There can be different levels of seriousness of probation, with different requirements for each defendant.
When the judgment and sentence is pronounced by the court, the length of probation is established and ordered by the court.
The Probation Officer’s Power/Supervision
The order of probation and the terms of probation, together with the powers granted the probation officer by statute, govern what the PO can do and not do.
The probation officer provides the defendant with tasks he needs to complete, such as checking in with him, or seeking counseling or treatment.
The PO may also help the defendant access services he live while completing probation.
The primary threat the probation officer has to keep the defendant on track is the probation violating process (PV).
In a PV, the probation officer files/forwards a report to the prosecution (and potentially the court depending on the jurisdiction) outlining the specific order in the judgment that the defendant has violated and the facts that support the PO’s determination that the violation occurred.
A PV action is filed by the prosecutor’s office, a warrant is issued, and the defendant is brought to court to answer.
If the defendant admits to the allegations, or the allegations are proven, the court has several options:
- the court can do nothing, giving the defendant another chance
- the court can sanction the defendant (meaning give him a punishment) to encourage him to follow the rules, like sending him to jail for a short period, or ordering community service or road crew (usually trash clean up)
- modify the terms of the probation (adding some new restrictions or making them more specific)
- revoking probation entirely, and just sending the defendant to a straight jail sentence
Who Has The Power To Change The Length Of Probation?
The probation officer only has the powers provided to him by the orders of the court and the state statutes.
In general, the judgment (stated by the judge in open court) determines the length of probation.
In general, to extend the length of probation is to change the court’s judgment.
In general, no person (like a police officer, court clerk, attorney, probation officer, corrections officer, counselor) can change the court’s judgment.
The judge is the only person who can change the length of probation (extend or shorten it).
That being said, the probation officer (and the prosecutor) can file motions asking the judge to change the length of probation.
In most states, the laws about probation extensions grant judges broad discretion to extend probation.
This makes each situation very fact specific. This broad discretion makes it difficult for attorneys to say “no, the judge won’t extend it” vs “yes, this is a sure thing.”
Should A Defendant Want An Extension of Probation?
It depends on the purpose of the extension.
If the extension is intended to help the defendant successfully complete probation, seems like a good thing.
Sometimes there’s just too much to do, and life gets in the way.
If the alternative to failing probation (and getting jail as a result) is an extension, then the extension might be the way to go.
If the purpose of the extension is to just keep an eye on the defendant longer, that might not be the best for him.
If the probation officer wants an extension, he’ll have to have good reasons for it if the defendant has completed all the other requirements ordered by the court.
If the defendant has completed everything and the probation officer still wants an extension, this is a great time to get a defense lawyer who is experienced with PV hearings involved in the case.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
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