If you are planning on living with someone on felony probation (and you aren’t familiar with the system), there’s quite a bit to learn.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of felony probation, some of the things that can (and cannot) be done, and what might happen during the term of probation.
Living With Someone On Felony Probation (NEED TO KNOW Information)
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Introduction To Probation
Probation is technically a “punishment” that results from a criminal conviction.
Probation is different than parole.
Probation is a term of out-in-the-world-supervision that has nothing to do with the length of jail time, or whether any jail has been ordered at all.
A person could serve no jail, 10 days jail, or a month, and the length of probation starts to run the day of the sentencing.
Parole is granted to someone who has been serving time in prison; the offender is allowed to serve the remainder of his prison sentence in the community under the supervision of a parole officer.
The length of the parole has to do with the length of the sentence remaining, and won’t be determined until the defendant is in the process of being released.
There are different kinds of probation, and the names for them can differ from place to place.
It could be called:
- court probation
- supervised probation
- misdemeanor probation
- probation to the court
- felony probation
- informal probation
- formal probation
- and more…
In general, most courts have two kinds of probation: one kind of probation that is closely supervised with a dedicated probation officer, and another that is more loosely supervised.
People convicted of felonies and placed on probation usually get the probation officer, while misdemeanor probation might get informal probation or court probation (without a dedicated probation officer).
Again, this various from state to state.
Terms of Probation
When a person is sentenced to felony probation, he is provided with a list of rules/orders that he has to follow during the term of probation.
For a felony, the defendant might be ordered to:
- not possess or use alcohol
- not use or possess illegal substances
- not use or possess controlled substances
- not possess weapons
- install and maintain an ignition interlock device (blow and go)
- submit to urinalysis
- attend counseling or treatment
- get or maintain a job
- enroll in and attend school
- make arrangements for the probation officer to visit place of employment
- allow the probation officer to walk through his residence
- allow the probation officer to search his person, vehicle, and areas at his residence that were in his use or control
- submit to a polygraph
- stay in the state
Depending on the criminal charges, there might be additional restrictions, such as a prohibition from going to specific places, being around specific people, engaging in specific activities, utilizing electronics or the internet, or participate in counseling.
Living With Someone On Probation
The terms of probation only apply to the defendant/probationer.
That being said, the people living with the defendant pretty much have to toe the line as well to avoid causing the defendant to violate his probation.
Even if the banned items do not do not belong to the defendant, placing banned items in areas where the defendant could have access to them (like on the kitchen table or in the pantry) could be considered possession.
And even if the defendant does not use the substances (even passing a polygraph and a urinalysis), the probation officer might not approve of the defendant living in the residence where it would be so easy for a violation to occur.
Unknowing guests could also cause the defendant trouble by bringing in or using banned substances or items in the defendant’s residence.
To make sure accidental violations do not occur (or that the defendant will not be tempted/encouraged), most would recommend that all the people living in the residence follow the terms of the probation when it comes to what can be in the house or not.
Sometimes this means storing certain items (such as lawfully obtained and owned weapons) in another location until probation has been completed.
Most people on probation for felonies will be ordered to consent to warrantless searches of their person, home, and vehicle by the probation officer or his designee.
Generally, the probation officer will have the authority to search the common areas (including bathrooms and storage areas) and the defendant’s room(s), so long as defendant uses them in some way.
This can cause friction in the household, as the other residents may not want to have law enforcement walking through the house unexpectedly.
The search authority is broad, meaning that the probation officer could open drawers, look in boxes, check into private areas, the works.
For the non-defendant, this could actually lead to trouble if the non-defendant roommate possesses evidence that could support criminal charges.
Even if there’s no evidence that could cause trouble, it can just be really obnoxious having random strangers drop in to look through the dirty laundry.
Lots of Obligations
Formal probation might mean that the defendant has a lot of things to do (like meetings to attend).
A supportive roommate/partner can make the difference when it comes to these obligations.
Maintaining a joint calendar can help the planning of activities so that probation obligations don’t get forgotten.
This calendar will also help roommates or loved ones understand why the defendant is not available to help pull weeds or grocery shop after work on a Wednesday.
Roommates can help remind the probationer of his meetings or check-ins, or even drop him off on the way if transportation is a problem.
Some POs are interested in meeting roommates/partners, and will share information about how the partner can assist the probationer during the term.
In the End
Probation officers are not adverse to their probationers living with others so long as the others don’t make it harder for the probationer to succeed.
In some cases, supportive roommates (as well as family and friends) can be a positive influence, help him to stay on track, and become a vital part of successful completion of probation.
If you have any legal questions or concerns about living with someone on felony probation, it is a good idea to confer with an experienced attorney who practices in the jurisdiction where the probation is being supervised.
That attorney will know and understand the local practices of the Office of Probation, and should be able to provide the needed guidance.
Want to learn more about your criminal justice system?
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