How Does DUI Probation Work?

DUI probation (called “community control” in some states) is your chance to remain out of jail, but on restricted terms and conditions (example: no use of alcohol at all). A probated sentence is given by a judge to a person convicted of a crime instead of requiring that he or she be sent to jail or prison.

Probation (rather than straight jail time) is a matter of the judge’s discretion. Often a sentence is part jail time with the balance to be served on probation. Violation of probation (VOP) terms will usually result in the person being sent to jail for all or part of the remaining “probation” term.

Repeat criminals are normally not eligible for probation and are often given more jail time than a first offender. Probation is not the same as “parole,” which is a term describing “conditional” freedom after a lengthy term of jail under certain restrictions. This refers to the jail release given to convicted felons at or near the end of their imprisonment period.

What’s the difference between reporting and non-reporting probation?

Probation can be either “reporting” or “non-reporting.” Reporting means the defendant must maintain regular contact (usually physically report, although occasionally by phone or by mail) with the probation officer. Non-reporting means the defendant is officially still under supervision by the court but does not have to make regular contact with a probation officer. Some reporting probation can be converted to non-reporting after a period of time, if all conditions specified by the court have been met.

“Intensive probation” is a term used to describe very strict and harsh reporting and compliance for offenders. Many courts are starting to utilize intensive probation to control every aspect of repeat DUI-DWI offender’s lives. Compliance with all of these terms is extremely difficult for some offenders, due to a loss of work time and the inability for the person to drive a vehicle (in many instances).
DUI probation should be considered as a gift from a judge, since he or she could have sent the offender to jail for the entire sentence instead. Typically, probation is a non-jail alternative only so long as you comply with all of the many conditions.

These conditions usually mean that you pay fines and do all other conditions such as community service, attend DUI class, obtain alcohol and drug evaluation and treatment, not violate any laws while on probation, abstain from drinking any alcohol, follow through with any other court-ordered conditions and report regularly to your probation officer.

How much does DUI probation cost per month?

Many misdemeanor probation programs are now privatized, meaning they are not run by a governmental agency but are provided by a private company. As a part of the sentence, the defendant can be required to pay both an initial fee and a monthly supervision fee (typically $30 to $50 per month) to the probation company.

Failure to pay these fees, for any reason, is a reason the court can use to revoke the probation and require the defendant to spend all or part of the remainder of the sentence in jail. Financial hardship may help you get an extension of time to pay and stay out of jail, but you need to have your proof of this hardship ready.

Restitution is the legal term identifying the repayment to a “victim” of an accident (caused by criminal acts such as a DUI-DWI wreck) the monetary value of any loss. In DUI-DWI cases, this may entail lost wages for an injured person, or medical bills, or both. Restitution for property damage is also a common court-imposed “sentence” condition. Restitution may be a condition of granting a defendant probation or giving him/her a shorter sentence than normal.

What happens if I violate my probation?

If you violate any of the terms of your probation, the probated sentence (or a portion of it) can be revoked. All or part of this revocation is done at a hearing before the judge who sentenced you. At this hearing, evidence of the violation must be presented. If you dispute this violation, you can present documentary evidence or testimony at this hearing to refute the claimed violation. One of the challenges your attorney may be able to assert is that the alleged acts triggering the revocation petition are “unrelated” to the crime for which you are serving the probated sentence.

The amount of proof at these probation revocation hearings is much less than for a criminal conviction – “preponderance of the evidence” rather than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” If you lose this hearing, you may spend the remaining time of your probated sentence in jail, or face some other form of detention.