Answer: Not exactly. A probation officer can make it hard for a defendant to date someone, but they can’t control all matters of the heart.
Let us explain.
Can a Probation Officer Tell You Who You Can Date? (Explained)
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Authority of a Probation Officer
The authority of a defendant’s probation officer has limits, believe it or not.
There are two places that a probation officer gets his authority: the probation judgment which contains the court’s orders, and the statutes/laws of the jurisdiction that controls the case (think state/federal).
There is also the constitutional rights of the defendant, though some of them will no longer apply now that the case is complete.
The defendant is ordered to do (or not do) many things during probation, such as:
- commit no crimes
- violate no laws (even traffic laws)
- find and maintain employment, or enroll in and attend school
- complete substances abuse assessments for treatment and complete any recommended treatment
- submit to substances abuse testing (blood or urine)
- refrain from possession weapons
- not leave the state
- consent to the entry of the probation officer for home visits
The judgment may or may not contain orders preventing the defendant from being in contact (in-person, phone, social media, etc) with specific people.
The judgment may or may not contain orders preventing the defendant from going to specific places.
If the probation orders do not govern a particular aspect of the defendant’s life, then generally there’s nothing that the probation officer should be able to do about it.
Defendants and Dating
A probation officer can certainly tell the defendant that he shouldn’t date a specific person.
And when we say ‘date’ that could mean talking on the phone, hanging out, living with, all of the things.
That being said, the only authority that probation officer has is the authority to enforce the specifics of the probation order, governed by the laws of the jurisdiction.
We know of no law that governs the probation officer’s authority to decide who a defendant can date.
That being said, the terms of a particular order of probation may make it difficult (or even impossible) for a couple to date.
For example, if the probation order says that the defendant shall have no contact with his desired girlfriend, then the probation officer can enforce that.
If the probation order says that the defendant cannot associate with a specific person, then the probation officer can enforce that.
If the probation says that the defendant shall not go to specific places, and those places are the places where defendant would see his desired girlfriend, then the probation officer can enforce that.
if the probation order says that the defendant is not allowed to use specific electronic devices that defendant would otherwise use to communicate with his desired girlfriend, then the probation officer can enforce that.
“Dating” can mean a lot of things.
Some of those meanings are meanings that a probation officer can influence or inhibit (like living together) while others (like falling in love) are meanings that a probation officer cannot influence of prevent.
In the end, if a defendant has questions about whether or not dating a specific person is a violation of his probation orders, the best place for him to verify that is to look at the probation orders for specific orders.
After that, he could request confirmation/verification of the probation officer’s authority to prevent the defendant from ‘dating’ a specific person.
After that, the defendant could contact an attorney to help get some questions answered, being the case back before the court for clarification/modification, or to just get some help understanding what would constitute a violation or not in his individual case.
Answers to this question may vary from state to state.
What If The Probation Officer Violates The Defendant For Dating Someone?
Is a probation violating proceeding is filed as a result of the contact between the defendant and a non-party individual, it will be up to the probation officer and the prosecutor to prove that the defendant violated a specific order of the court.
If a defendant thinks it is likely that a probation violation will be filed, it is best to get an attorney on board.
What Is The Probation Officer Says ‘Don’t Date That Person?’
If a probation officer expresses something negative about the defendant’s potential romantic partner, it seems like a good time to stop and figure out why that is.
The probation officer might know more about the individual than the defendant, or feel concern that the relationship could make it harder for the defendant to succeed on probation.
If the defendant continues to associate with a person the probation officer doesn’t approve of, the defendant could be putting himself at risk of a higher level of scrutiny or suspicion, which could increase the potential for a probation violation.
Just because a defendant can date a specific person without violating his probation, it doesn’t mean that he should.
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