I Do Not Want to Go To Jail!
Most people would do anything to avoid going to jail. When you’re at court looking at the armed deputy, all you’re thinking about his how to avoid leaving in the deputy’s shiny, cold handcuffs. Going on probation for 6 or 12 months seems very tempting, even as the judge is listing off all of the probation appointments you have to attend (and pay for), the restrictions on your movement and travel, the constitutional protections you have to give up, all the community service you have to do, the fines you have to pay, the drug tests you have to take, and the classes you have to complete (and pay for as well).
None of that matters in the moment because you do not want to go to jail. You barely even hear the judge remind you that if you violate anything at any time, if you get a speeding ticket or simply are late to a drug test, you will be arrested and go back to jail for up to the entire remainder of your sentence. You think that probably won’t happen. Even if you do mess up, the judge might give you a pass just one time. He might even terminate your probation early. You will tell yourself anything to not go to jail.
Taking Probation Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Going to Jail
Probation is hard, in fact it can be harder than jail. The system is designed so that any mistake you make will cause you to go back to jail just to come out a couple of days or month later back on probation!
Probation is owned and operated by private companies that make their money by keeping people on probation. They want you coming in every month to pay them fines, take the classes they recommend, and pay for your drug tests.
Probation is a test many can’t win. Probation officers don’t answer their phones – at all. Ever. If you have a probation appointment, you must attend it. There is no way to change it without seeing your officer in person, and he will probably only see you during your pre-scheduled probation appointment. If you can’t go to your appointment, they will arrest you and you will go to jail.
If you fall one dollar behind on fines – you go to jail.
If you are 5 minutes late for a class – you go to jail.
If you get a ticket – you go to jail.
If you don’t complete every hour of community service at the super-speed rate your judge requires – you go to jail.
How Bad is Jail?
If you live in a small county or a county that is well-funded, jail isn’t always terrible. You get three meals a day, exercise, and have nothing you have to do. If the prosecution is recommending a couple of days or weeks in jail, research the jail, and consider taking the offer!
If you are not a citizen of the United States, please consult with an immigration attorney before completing any criminal case.
Anna Erwin, Esq.