PROBATION: A SIGH OF RELIEF OR SETUP FOR FAILURE By Attorney Corey L. Scott So your case is over and you're relieved that instead of sending you to prison, the Judge has chosen to place you on probation. But what exactly is probation? And what does it mean to be placed on probation? I know that to some these sound like silly questions but in dealing with many clients facing probation violations, I beg to differ because there seems to be plenty of misconceptions. Probation is when a convicted person's (sometimes referred to as a probationer) sentence is conditionally suspended as long as they abide by special conditions placed upon them by the sentencing court. In other words, the person is allowed to go home and avoid jail or prison time provided that they follow the rules of the court and probation. The conditions of probation typically include things like: not committing additional crimes, not using illegal drugs or alcohol, maintaining employment, having no contact with certain people or places, participating and completing various types of counseling or therapy to address issues such as anger management, domestic violence, mental health, parenting classes, or substance abuse. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 43 percent of felony probationers and 62 percent of parolees will be rearrested or have their probation revoked and sent to prison within three years after being placed on probation or parole. Which begs the question, is probation an opportunity (sigh of relief) or a set up failure? It depends. As with most things in life, attitude is everything when it comes to being successful on probation. Probably the most important point I want to make to anyone currently on probation or facing the prospect of being placed on probation is that being allowed to serve a sentence on probation is first and foremost, a privilege, not a right. Serving a sentence on probation is an opportunity to pay a debt to society while living a normal life, i.e., living at home, being with your family, going to work and moving about freely for the most part. The alternative to being on probation and serving a suspended sentence is to be locked up and having someone else determine your every action from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed at night. So once someone is placed on probation, the only thing keeping them from living a normal life (with special conditions) versus being locked up is their ability to follow probation rules and care enough about themselves, their loved ones and their responsibilities to take care of business. It is it important to make this point because I have come across more than a few clients that treat probation as if it's a right or something that they're entitled to—these are the same people who although they're on probation and facing the loss of their freedom, jobs and family—continue to smoke marijuana, fail to report to probation, miss appointments, fail to complete treatment and commit new crimes. At some point, the probation officer files a violation of probation and a hearing is held to determine if the person will be given another chance to complete probation or be sent to prison to complete their sentence. The hearing is nothing like a full blown trial where the State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty. Rather, in a probation violation hearing, the State/probation merely needs to show that by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that a violation of probation rules occurred. For example, a person could be placed on probation for one year but face prison or back up time of three years if they violate probation. So the person is faced with the choice to attend meetings, maintain a job, stop using illegal drugs and stay out of trouble for one year versus continue the same behavior that got them in trouble in the first place and go to prison for three years. The ironic thing is that most of the time the probation period is much shorter than the prison time a person gets for violating probation. Is probation a sigh of relief or a set up? It depends.
About the Author
Corey L. Scott, was born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana. Upon graduation from East Chicago Central High School, Corey attended Indiana State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology. Upon graduation, Corey accepted a position with the Marion County Superior Court, Juvenile Division where he served with distinction for the next nine years, eventually being promoted to Director of the Youth Counseling Department. Pursuing his dream of becoming an attorney, Corey attended the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. While in law school, Corey was an Indiana Council on Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) fellow and participated in Moot Court competitions. He also worked in the Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division as a bailiff and research assistant to the Honorable Tanya Walton Pratt, who serves as a Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Corey also served as an internship law clerk to the Honorable Judge, Margret G. Robb, at the Indiana Court of Appeals. Finally, upon graduation from law school, Corey had the distinct honor and privilege to serve as a law clerk to the Honorable Justice, Robert D. Rucker, who sits on the Indiana Supreme Court. Corey then became an associate with Mike Norris Law Office, where he specialized in bankruptcy law with a main concentration on working to assist families obtain a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Still a young attorney, Corey then served as a public defender at the Marion County Public Defender Agency. In this position, Corey gained invaluable trial experience by defending clients in a wide range of matters from misdemeanors to serious felonies on a daily basis. It was also during this time that Corey discovered his passion for representing and serving "everyday people." An entrepreneur at heart, Corey established the Law Office of Corey L. Scott, P.C. Since then, he and his staff have served the greater Indianapolis community and surrounding counties in several legal disciplines including: Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense and Family Law. In keeping with his vision, Corey L. Scott, P.C., is a client focused, results oriented general law practice that endeavors to provide legal solutions for "everyday people" charged with a crime, dealing with financial crisis or going through a difficult divorce. Corey has also been active serving the greater Indianapolis community by participating in pro bono programs such as "Ask a Lawyer," the "Modest Means" panel program which allows individuals to afford legal counsel at a fraction of normal rates, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and the Heartland Pro Bono Council program. Corey is a proud member of the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indiana Bar Association, American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.