If you are put on probation, you may simultaneously feel relief and dread. While probation keeps you out of jail, the terms of your probation may trap you in one place for fear of being charged again. The terms of your probation may prevent you from going to church (if you cannot be within a certain distance of facilities that cater to children) or from traveling for extended periods of time (if you routinely have to meet with your probation officer).In one case, a woman violated her probation simply by having a dog. Yes, that’s right, a dog.
When Your Pet Is a Probation Violation
In 2015, Cynthia Anderson was arrested for drowning a puppy in a Nebraska airport toilet. She was convicted and sentenced to two years of probation. As a part of her probation, she was told not to be in close contact with, or own, an animal.Fast forward to mid-March. After Anderson’s probation officer found a dog in her home, they reminded her of the terms of her probation. Anderson told the officer that the dog was her roommate’s.However, this doesn’t matter, as being in close contact with an animal still violates the terms. Police came to the apartment the next day, found Anderson with the dog, and arrested her for violating her probation. She is being held in jail without bond.Having a dog is far from a crime… unless you are prohibited under the terms of your probation. To be clear, though, this does not mean that people on probation can’t have dogs or pets. It all depends on the specific terms that are outlined in your individual probation agreement. Unless the offenses that put you on probation were related to violence against animals, it is unlikely that you would be prevented from having a dog.Not sure what constitutes a violation of your particular probation terms? Talk to a lawyer. Probation agreements are far from uniform. In a past blog post, we outlined 10 different ways people could potentially violate probation, but those just barely scratch the surface, and many do not necessarily apply to everyone.
How Are Probation Terms Determined?
If you are sentenced to probation in Florida, a judge will look through your entire case while drawing up your terms. Factors that may play into probation terms may include:
- The crime you committed
- Where the crime was committed
- Victims of the crime
- Whether firearms were used in the crime
- Damages that resulted from the crime
The terms of probation are made in order to prevent the offender from committing similar crimes. For example, someone who was convicted of domestic violence may not have to pay as much restitution as someone who was convicted of fraud, but they probably won’t be able to own a firearm, whereas the fraudster may keep that right.Of course, there are certain terms that you can count on no matter what crime you get convicted on. If you face probation, you will most likely have to abide by the following terms:
- Report to the probation and parole supervisors as directed.
- Permit such supervisors to visit you at your home or elsewhere.
- Work faithfully at suitable employment insofar as may be possible.
- Remain within a specified place.
- Live without violating any law.
Whatever your terms, the bottom line is that you need to stay out of trouble. If you are arrested and charged with a crime while you are under probation, you will face more charges and a higher penalty than someone who committed the crime and is not serving probation. If you commit the same crime that put you on probation in the first place, you will face even higher penalties. Often, a second or third charge of the same crime results in more jail time and increased fines.Other common forms of probation terms include:
- Paying reparation or restitution to victims.
- Supporting legal dependents.
- Not associating with people who commit crimes.
- Undergoing random drug testing.
- Prohibition from carrying, buying, or using a firearm.
How Do I Know the Terms of My Probation?
The most common terms of probation are important to know, because they may not be read to you when you are sentenced to probation. While this probably seems unfair, it’s still the law.Immediately after you are sentenced to probation, you should have a meeting with your probation officer or your lawyer to review the terms of your probation. Work out the details of meetings and get the contact information of your probation officer. Know exactly which locations are off-limits, and why.Educating yourself on your case and what you are allowed and not allowed to do is the best way to prevent a future arrest. Keep written documentation of what is allowed so that you can go back and look if a confusing situation arises.If you have been charged with violating your probation, you may or may not be able to use the knowledge of your terms as a defense strategy. No matter what term you violated, the charges you face for it, or your knowledge of the terms of your probation, talk to a Florida criminal defense attorney.About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.