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Probation in Florida and Its Consequences

Many individuals arrested in Florida eventually face the criminal courts. The criminal courts have four main players: (i) criminal defendant; (ii) criminal defense attorney; (iii) prosecutor and (iv) judge. The criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor will inevitably speak to each other about a “resolution” of the criminal defendant’s case. This process is called the plea negotiation. During the plea negotiation the criminal defense attorney will discuss with the prosecutor the strengths of the criminal defendant’s case; the good character evidence of the criminal defendant; the applicable motions like suppression, dismissal or in limine motions that may be persuasive to tip the scales in favor of the defendant. The prosecutor on the other hand will tell the criminal defense attorney the wishes of the victim; the amount of restitution owed; the impact the crime had on the community; the lack of remorse the defendant has shown and the strengths of the prosecutor’s case if the matter were to proceed to trial. With these kinds concerns in mind the “plea” is negotiated.

A negotiated plea can be accepted or rejected by the judge. More times than not, the judge accepts the plea of the parties and imposes sentence. The imposition of sentence is when the judge “orally pronounces” what the criminal defendant’s penalties are. On most occasions, the judge will pronounce a sentence of probation. The terms of the probation will be orally recited in open court and on the record.

In Florida and in the Federal criminal courts, only the trial Judge may set the conditions upon which probation may be revoked, and probation may be revoked only for the violation of a condition set by the trial court in open court during the sentencing phase of the criminal defendant. See Barber v. State, 344 So. 2d 913 (Fla. DCA 3rd 1977).  This boils down to whatever the judge tells the probationer what he or she must do or refrain from doing is all that the sentence requires.

Probation officers in Florida and in the Federal system may not add conditions of probation that were not articulated by the sentencing judge in open court during the sentencing hearing. Any deletions of conditions of probation must come from the trial court and through proper motion and signed court order. Further, jeopardy attaches to all criminal sentences once the trial judge speaks, the terms of the probation on the record, unless the condition or conditions spoken by the judge form an illegal sentence. Then as a matter of law, the conditions do not apply.

Because the trial judge is the only one with the power to sentence a criminal defendant, the same person is the only one responsible for signing and finding a violation of probation, as against a probationer. An allegation that a probationer, violated a condition of probation imposed by the defendant’s probation officer, rather than orally imposed by the trial court, cannot serve as a basis for revocation of probation in Florida or in the Federal courts. See Keiss v. State, 642 So. 2d  1141(Fla. 4th DCA 1994). Probation officers in Florida, as in the Federal Courts, have no authority under law or morally to set new conditions of probation, require stricter conditions of probation, or to require the probationer to perform under scrutiny that is unreasonable in attempts to violate the probationer.

Probation is not an easy road in Florida or in the Federal Courts. The conditions of probation articulated by the trial judge prohibit many freedoms the defendant had in place prior to pleading guilty and being placed on probation. Conditions of probation are laid out clearly and adopted by Florida Statute. The trial judge may also impose additional sanctions of probation that are clearly and reasonable places on the defendant which have a nexus to the criminal activity.

If you or a loved one have a question, concern or problem while serving a sentence of probation in Florida or in the Federal Courts, then call an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has successfully argued final hearings for Violations of Probation; terminated early hundreds of probationers from probation, through motions for early termination of probation; negotiated and reduced the applicable effective sentence of those facing violation of probations; and has a successful track record in filing winning appeals in these matters throughout the appellate courts.

Contact West Palm Beach Criminal Defense attorney Andrew D. Stine for all you or your loved ones probation needs. Palm Beach Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been protecting and fighting for probation violators for over 13 years. Hire Stine or Do the Time.

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