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How Does Probation Work in Georgia Criminal Cases?

Probation is a type of sanction imposed instead of a prison sentence, and it requires you to abide by specific rules and restrictions as part of your sentence. You must meet with a "probation officer" regularly who will monitor progress and ensure you comply with all terms and conditions required by the judge. Think of these probation officers as adult babysitters. They are there to make sure you take care of doing everything the court asks you to do. In addition, you are expected to remain free of new arrests. A violation of probation can result in you being incarcerated.

Probation in Georgia is divided into two types: misdemeanor probation and felony probation. Most criminal cases are resolved with probation instead of jail time, which means most people in the criminal court system are on probation.

Types of Probation in Georgia for Criminal Cases

There are two types of probation available in the Georgia criminal justice system. These are

  1. Supervised Probation

  2. Unsupervised Probation

Supervised probation is quite standard. You are required to report to a probation officer at least once a month. You will take a drug and alcohol test, usually by peeing in a cup and pay your probation officer supervision fees and fines. The probation officer will check that you are keeping your part of the bargain by abiding by all conditions ordered by the Judge. You repeat this process every month until the end of your sentence.

Unsupervised probation usually occurs in a felony case after about six months of reporting and almost always happens after two years of probation. Some counties in Georgia allow for unsupervised probation for misdemeanor cases. Unsupervised probation is when you no longer have to meet with a probation officer face-to-face. You still have obligations, though, such as fines and court fees you must pay on time. Typically, to even be considered for unsupervised probation, you need to satisfy and complete all conditions of probation; this includes community service, required classes and evaluations, and the payment of any outstanding restitution. You should speak to your probation officer as soon as you complete all the required conditions to see if they agree to move you to unsupervised probation!

How Much Does Probation Cost in Georgia?

Probation costs generally range from $15 to $50 per month, depending on the supervision level you are placed on. City courts, also called Municipal Courts, may have their own probation companies that charge a higher fee. You must be aware that probation supervision fees are not fines! They are entirely separate and found on your sentence sheet. Probation supervision costs are important to consider because they are sometimes never mentioned by the judge but could add another $600 per year to your sentence!

Can You Leave the State of Georgia While on Probation?

Generally, you cannot leave the state while on felony probation. Most criminal sentences contain language under the heading "General Conditions of Probation." Here is a quick video that discusses the General Conditions of any probation sentence. It contains explicit language prohibiting traveling and moving outside of the county and the state of Georgia. You must ask your probation officer to leave the state, even for a trip to Disney World, a cruise, or moving for college! If travel is a necessity, contact your Probation Officer and ask whether or not it's allowed.

What are the Standard Conditions Of Probation?

A "condition of probation" or requirement imposed by the Court may include:

  • Passing random drug and alcohol screens;

  • Refraining from possession or use of alcohol;

  • Not associate with known criminals;

  • Not leave the county (misdemeanor probation) without permission of your probation officer;

  • Community Service;

  • Attending a drug and alcohol evaluation and complying with any recommended treatment;

  • Taking DUI or Drug classes;

  • Paying fines;

  • Work faithfully toward suitable employment;

  • Provide medical care to your dependents;

  • Avoid injurious and vicious habits and harmful character;

  • No contact with the alleged victim or victim's school and employment;

  • If a sex offense, you may not go to where minors congregate;

  • If a sex offense, you may be restricted from a specified location or having internet access.

What is a Probation Violation?

A probation violation is any action taken against the terms or conditions of your probation. It could be failing a drug test, failing to report to your probation officer, associating with known criminals who are convicted felons, leaving the county without permission, or any number of different actions. Of course, committing a new crime is called a "substantive violation" and is grounds for your probation officer to seek an immediate warrant for your arrest. While probation officers generally do not put people in jail for failing to pay their court-ordered fines, it could happen if it is considered a willful violation.

If you violate probation, the judge could sentence you to jail or prison time based on the seriousness of your violation. And the length of time will be whatever is left on probation. For example, let's say you are on misdemeanor probation, and it is for a total of 12 months. If you violate probation on month 2 for a positive drug test, the judge could put you back in jail for the remaining ten months of probation! This is when you want to speak with an attorney!

What is the Actual Georgia Law for Felony and Misdemeanor Probation?

Like me, you want to read the actual law that applies to both misdemeanor and felony probation sentences. As of 2021, the Georgia law is O.C.G.A. Section 42-8-35 code ann.

How do I Apply for Early Termination of my Probation Case?

This is one of the questions I get asked the most. To have your probation terminated, you must first complete all of the original conditions imposed by the judge and the probation officer. You should have this done without the probation officer reminding you. To terminate probation, you have to get the probation officer to agree, the prosecutor to agree, and ultimately, the judge to agree. Then, we can file a motion to terminate probation, and you will go in front of the judge to explain why you are worthy of coming off government supervision. You should bring all of your treatment completion certificates for any sort of rehabilitation you did if this were a drug offense or DUI case, as well as all drug testing certificates and a summary of the completed conditions. Finally, you want to prepare a statement to read to the judge as to why he can trust you to lead a productive life rather than go back to being friends with those with disreputable or harmful character and individuals convicted of crimes. You should also be ready to explain the financial burden that probation has on you.

Conclusion

In conclusion, probation is relatively easy, so long as you comply with the conditions of probation. While it is expensive, it is a much better alternative to jail as long as you know the costs ahead of time. The best advice if you find yourself in this situation is to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you get arrested so that if you end up on probation, it can be for the shortest time possible and with the least amount of conditions.

Categories: Criminal Defense
Richman Law Firm - Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney
6474 Georgia Highway 400
Cumming, GA 30028.
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81 Crown Mountain Place, 300E
Dahlonega, GA 30533
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213 Veterans Memorial Blvd
Cumming, GA 30040
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