Probation is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’re not in jail. On the other, you need to be as careful as possible not to violate your probation status. Your lawyer probably communicated the importance of steering clear of another crime, but did you know you could be breaking your probation in ways you might not know?
Steer clear of added jail time and fines by avoiding these blunders.
1. Associating with someone who has a record.
Unfortunately, a judge can prevent you from associating with known felons. This includes your girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend or cousin. Even though you may feel you have the right to visit with whomever you want, if the judge in your case feels that your associating with criminals might be a setback in your rehabilitation, you could find yourself with another fine or more jail time for committing this infraction.
2. Crossing town, state or federal lines.
When you’re put on probation, it’s best to know the terms surrounding your probation. Depending on the probation laws in your state or the guidelines surrounding your case, you might need to abide by certain rules. Most people know not to leave the country while on probation, but many don’t know not to leave their state. This is particularly tricky if you happen to live near a state border or in a small state—like the states in New England. It’s important you abide by these rules. Getting caught could result in a larger punishment.
3. Failing to pay a fine.
When you leave court with a bill for a fine or restitution, it’s important to pay these fines on time. Failing to pay a court fine (or paying one late) isn’t the same as paying your water bill late. Not only could you be facing more fines, you could also be facing more jail time.
4. Forgetting your meeting with your probation officer.
Your probation officer changed the date of your next meeting because he or she was out of town on your usual day. You forgot about the change and missed the check-in. This could be grounds to send you back to jail. To ensure you stay in good standing with the courts, make sure you remember your probation meetings and stick to them without fail.
5. Forgetting to attend a court-ordered meeting.
Part of your probation might be contingent upon court-ordered therapy, community service or other requirements. Normally when you forget a therapy appointment, all is not lost. You simply reschedule your appointment. When your therapy is court ordered then you must attend all meetings or risk being sent back to jail. If a judge thinks you’re not taking your treatment seriously then you could end up in big trouble.
6. Losing your job.
You forgot to count your cash drawer at the end of your shift, and your manager found out. Not only have you lost your job, but you’ve lost your probation too. If you lose your job while on probation—even if you feel you were let go in error—this change could affect your probation status. It’s best to make sure your employment status doesn’t change while on probation. Going to jail because you’ve been fired is just like adding insult to injury.
7. Associating yourself with drugs.
Most people on probation understand they shouldn’t take drugs. Yet just being around drugs—even marijuana—can result in huge penalties and jail time. If you have even trace amounts of drugs in your system from being in the same room as drug users, you could end up facing the judge again. If you’re at a party where drugs are present (even if you’re not aware of their presence) you could end up with more jail time or fines.
8. Failing to report your change of address.
Something as simple as a change of address is easy to let slip through the cracks—especially if you’re not moving far. Even if you’re moving from your mom’s house to your dad’s house, you need to let the court know about the change.
Probation may feel like added jail time, but it’s important to abide by these rules. Doing so ensures you stay clear of the system and any future jail time or fines.