Probation as an Alternative to Jail
Probation is a criminal sentence available under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A. This Texas code calls probation community supervision. Probation is a relatively common recommendation as part of a plea deal, depending on the seriousness of the crime and the history and character of the defendant. Probation is a conviction and a jail sentence that is suspended and probated, which generally means no jail time if all probation conditions are fulfilled. Probation is not a walk in the park. When a court imposes a sentence of probation, the court typically imposes a series of requirements that the defendant must fulfill in order to complete the sentence. A primary requirement is that the defendant avoids a new criminal charge or misconduct like the misconduct that led to the criminal charge for which the defendant got probation. While probation can include many things like drug testing, counseling, and community service, the main point of probation is that the defendant stays out of trouble for the probationary period. The probationary period may hang over the defendant's head like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Staying out of trouble can be harder for some than for others. But if the defendant completes probation without trouble, the defendant can avoid jail time.
DWI Probation Particulars
While probation generally avoids jail time, probation's conditions can be time-consuming, burdensome, and expensive. Probation also carries the constant risk of heightened scrutiny whenever anything goes awry. The burdens of probation can be especially acute for DWI defendants. DWI probation may or may not be the right thing for you. DWI is a crime involving both personal conduct, meaning drinking or using drugs, and criminal conduct, meaning driving under the influence. DWI probation thus typically addresses both personal issues, meaning drug or alcohol abuse, and the conduct issues associated with driving under the influence. DWI defendants on probation often face several conditions, some of which can be especially difficult to complete. Texas probation conditions routinely include all or most of the following:
- paying all court costs and fines imposed as part of the probation sentence;
- attending all education, counseling, and community service meetings;
- meeting monthly with the probation officer as scheduled;
- completing community service hours with documentation;
- completing drug and alcohol testing with clean results;
- driving only as specifically licensed within restrictions;
- maintaining school or employment as previously;
- avoiding criminal charge or conviction; and
- avoiding bars, nightclubs, and other establishments serving intoxicants.
Probation as a Positive Outcome
Despite its burdens, probation can in some cases be a good outcome to a DWI charge, depending on the facts of your case, the seriousness of your DWI charge and the strength of the case against you. Sure, you'd rather beat the DWI charge entirely rather than have to jump through the hoops of probation. But there are pros and cons to fighting a DWI charge. In a case involving strong prosecution evidence and a felony charge, rather than a mere misdemeanor charge, probation for that felony DWI charge could be an especially good outcome depending on the facts of your case. Unless the defendant has a very serious drug or alcohol problem that seems sure to lead to further issues, probation is generally far better than significant jail or prison time. Know your Texas DWI rights, including your opportunities for probation over jail time. Retain premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy for your DWI defense to help you explore the advantages of probation. Probation may indeed be a little like a sword hanging over your head, but the sword need not strike. The good thing is that you can generally control whether you complete conditions of probation.
Probation's Usual Duration
A DWI defendant generally wants the shortest probation possible. The duration of probation depends on what the sentencing judge imposes within limits set by Texas law. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.053(e) and (f) provides that in most cases, misdemeanor probation may not last longer than two years, while felony probation may not be shorter than two years. Under the code, DWI defendants convicted of misdemeanor DWIs, like a DWI first offense or DWI second offense, can generally expect one or two years of probation. DWI defendants convicted of a DWI third offense, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter, can generally expect five years of probation.
The Power to Modify Probation
The judge who imposes probation on a DWI defendant has the statutory authority not only to set the probation's duration and conditions but also to modify those conditions, including to discharge the defendant from probation. If you are thinking that you may need and deserve an early discharge from your DWI probation, then you should know that Texas law grants the judge who imposed your probation the power to modify or discharge it. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.051 specifically grants the judge the power to “discharge the defendant.” That grant doesn't mean that judges often exercise the power. The opposite is true. Judges generally require DWI defendants to complete the probationary period that the judge first imposes. But the judge has the statutory power. You will very likely need the special skills of a premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney to convince a judge to exercise that power to terminate probation early.
Early Probation Termination for Violations
Probation can potentially terminate early, for either good reasons or bad reasons. You'd far rather have probation terminated for good reasons than for bad reasons. When a defendant violates a condition of probation, the court can revoke probation and impose a jail sentence. Unfortunately, many DWI defendants who received a sentence of probation find themselves facing a probation violation proceeding. That risk of violating probation is one reason why DWI defendants often wonder whether they can complete probation early. Better to get out from under probation than to violate it. A DWI arrest can itself be a probation violation. The defendant who has already suffered a DWI conviction, managed to escape with probation, but suffers rearrest on another DWI faces a serious problem. That defendant has probably violated several conditions of probation including not drinking, not driving drunk, and not committing another crime. Get the help of a premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney if you face a probation violation proceeding. Any of the following events could lead to an unfortunate early termination of probation, for commitment to jail:
- missing a court date;
- missing a meeting with the probation officer;
- failing to complete drug or alcohol counseling and education;
- failing to complete community service hours;
- failing to document completion of probation conditions;
- arrest for drunk driving or other crime;
- firing from work;
- expulsion from school; or
- failing to pay fines, court costs, and restitution.
Early Probation Termination for Good Behavior
Probation does not automatically terminate early for good behavior. Good behavior is what the court expects when imposing probation. Simply because a DWI defendant completes counseling, pays fines and costs, and meets regularly with the probation officer does not mean that the court will shorten the term or duration of the defendant's probation. If, for instance, the court imposes two years of probation for a misdemeanor DWI first offense, as Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.053(f) provides, then the court will generally require the defendant to comply with all probation conditions for the full two years. Model citizens don't expect rewards for being model citizens. Courts don't generally reward defendants with relief from being a model citizen simply because the defendant has stayed out of trouble. We're all supposed to stay out of trouble. The probationary defendant doesn't generally get early relief from probation, just so that the defendant can go back to getting into trouble.
Early Termination of Conditions
While courts generally expect DWI defendants to complete probationary conditions for the full imposed term, they may sometimes relieve defendants from specific probationary conditions while continuing other conditions for the full term of probation. The court has that power under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.051(b) stating, “The judge of the court having jurisdiction of the case may, at any time during the period of community supervision, modify the conditions of community supervision.” In other words, you may not get full relief from all probation conditions, but you may get partial relief from some conditions. Relief may be especially likely when your Texas DWI Specialist attorney can show the court that you have compelling reasons for relief from especially burdensome conditions that are no longer necessary. With the right case and the right advocacy, relief from individual conditions may be possible in these or similar situations:
- the recommendation of medical or mental health experts that counseling or treatment originally required is no longer necessary or helpful due to the defendant's recovery;
- the report of a community service site that work is complete due to the defendant's extraordinary efforts and that additional work opportunities are unavailable;
- the recommendation of a probation officer that the court reduce the frequency of required scheduled visits because of the defendant's good record and diligence;
- the report of a required school program that the education is complete early because of the defendant's great effort, persistence, capacity, skill and diligence;
- the request of an employer that the court relieve the defendant's travel restrictions or modify the defendant's license restrictions so that the defendant can further the defendant's valuable work for the employer; or
- the record of the court and acknowledgment of the victim that the defendant has paid all fines, costs, and restitution, or that restitution is no longer necessary due to unforeseen circumstances.
Early Probation Termination for Adhering to All Conditions
Termination of DWI probation overall, completely, rather than piecemeal as to individual conditions, is especially unlikely because of the lifestyle and personal conduct issues that can attend DWI convictions. Termination of one or more conditions, while leaving other conditions in place, is far more likely. Just because the defendant has met all conditions would not, for instance, likely influence a court to allow the defendant to resume frequenting bars, nightclubs, and other establishments serving intoxicants, before the natural conclusion of probation. A court is also unlikely to relieve a defendant early from probation requirements for drug and alcohol testing. If sobriety is the new lifestyle the court required the defendant to adopt to avoid another DWI, then the court would be unlikely to remove the testing condition that confirms that lifestyle's continuance. The defendant would have to demonstrate some extraordinary circumstance, and have a skilled Texas DWI Specialist attorney aggressively advocate, to achieve early probation termination, as Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.051 permits. Grounds could include:
- the defendant's permanent return to a foreign country of origin;
- the defendant's international marriage and move to another country;
- the compelling need of a distant family member for defendant's care;
- the need of a special employer for defendant's special expertise;
- unique or special government service or other public service.
Natural Termination of Probation
Of course, probation should eventually come to a natural end. Under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.058, probation ends “on expiration of the period of community supervision,” when the judge releases the defendant. The natural expiration of the full probationary period should terminate probation. Given cause, courts can extend probation beyond the initial term. Just because a defendant mostly complies with conditions doesn't mean that probation will conclude as initially scheduled. New concerns may arise from other forms of misconduct, outside probation conditions, that the court did not originally anticipate. Or probation violations may influence the court to extend probation. The end of probation is not, in other words, a sure thing. But the DWI defendant who completes all probation terms should generally expect probation to end at the conclusion of the originally imposed term.
Texas DWI Specialist Attorney Available
If you have significant questions about your DWI probation, including your prospects for its early termination, then retain a premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney to advise you on your rights and opportunities. Your primary interest is to avoid the severe collateral consequences that can come with a DWI conviction. One way to do so is to ensure that you complete all probationary conditions, early if possible. If you are on DWI probation but are uncertain of those rights and opportunities, then retain premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy to help you strategize how to minimize the burden and maximize your opportunities. Attorney Murphy can not only answer your questions but also help you avoid the risk of probation violations, while taking necessary or advantageous steps forward in your life. Attorney Murphy is so skilled and so widely respected that other lawyers voted attorney Doug Murphy Best Lawyers in America's 2021 Lawyer of the Year. Attorney Murphy is also one of only two Texas lawyers holding both Criminal Law Certification and DWI Board Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 today for premier DWI representation.