Criminal charges don’t automatically mean you are headed to jail or prison. Sometimes, your criminal defense attorney can help you negotiate or advocate for a sentence that only includes probation. Find out what that means, and what serving Colorado probation looks like.
This blog post will explain what to expect if you are sentenced to probation in Colorado. It will discuss common costs and terms that may be included in your probation order, and what happens if you violate your Colorado Probation.
Colorado Probation Avoids Time in Jail Away from Family and Work
For many Colorado residents, facing criminal charges can be terrifying. The fear of heading to prison and losing your family, home, and livelihood can all seem too much. When you hear your charges explained, those maximum jail times can leave you imagining weeks, months, or even years, cut off from your life.
But they are maximums. While some crimes do have short mandatory minimum jail sentences, many others do not. Depending on the severity of the charges, the circumstances in your case, and your own criminal history, your criminal defense attorney may be able to help you avoid jail time altogether, or reduce it in favor of probation.
What is Probation?
Probation is an alternative sentence in a criminal case that places conditions and limits on the defendant to protect society and any victims in the case while still letting the defendant remain in their home and community. Most criminal charges, except the most severe and the least severe, can include a probation sentence. The Colorado legislature has deemed Class 1 felonies as too serious to avoid prison through probation. Some Class 1 felonies include:
- First-degree murder or manslaughter
- First-degree kidnapping
- Child abuse resulting in death of a child under 12
- Assault during escape (with intent to commit bodily injury with deadly weapon force)
On the other end of the spectrum, Class 2 petty offenses are so insignificant that you could never go to jail for them. They usually only involve a fine. Since probation is an alternative to jail, it isn’t an option in those cases.
Mechanically, if you are sentenced to probation, your judge will enter an order setting the length of time, the costs associated with probation, the terms of probation, and directing whether the probation will be supervised or unsupervised. In supervised probation, you will need to have regular meetings with a probation officer assigned to your case. In unsupervised probation, as long as you aren’t violating the terms, you won’t need to do anything more.
Common Probation Terms
Your order of probation lays out what you must do and avoid doing to stay out of jail and complete your sentence. The terms of probation will depend on what happened in your case, whether there is a victim, and what help you may need dealing with mental health, unemployment, or other concerns that lead to repeat offenses. Some of the most common conditions of probation are:
- That you not commit any other crime (this is in every probation order)
- Regular meetings with your probation officer (for supervised probation)
- Total abstinence from non-prescription drugs and alcohol, including marijuana (except prescribed medical marijuana in most cases)
- Random or regular drug testing
- No contact with the victim of your crime
- Completion of counseling for substance abuse, anger management, domestic violence, or other mental health concerns
- Turning over or getting rid of firearms (this is in every probation order and can cause problems for military servicemembers)
- Paying restitution to compensate victims for the harm done to them
- Supervision costs and fines
- Electronic monitoring (sometimes called a tether)
- Curfew or out-of-state travel restrictions
If you are sentenced to probation, it will be up to you to do everything in your power to follow the conditions of your probation order throughout the probationary period. The judge will determine how long that is, but if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the law limits your probation to 5 years.
What Happens in the Case of a Probation Violation
Most probationers (people on probation) don’t want to violate the terms of their probation. They may not understand the limits of what they can or cannot do, or perhaps their life circumstances make it hard to pay fines, fees, and restitution, or make it to their meetings or counseling sessions. When that happens, you could find yourself facing a probation violation. In those cases, the probation officer or prosecuting attorney may file a motion to revoke probation (MRP) and the judge may issue a “no bond” warrant. You can be arrested and sent to jail to serve out your sentence.
However, you are entitled to have a hearing to explain why you have not, in fact, violated your probation, or that the violation was small or unintentional, and that you should be given another chance to complete your sentence without going to jail. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side for that hearing can be the difference between going to jail or going home to be with your family.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience within the Colorado court system. We know that lengthy jail sentences can change your life. We can advocate on your behalf at sentencing, or when you are facing charges of a probation violation. We work hard to get our clients the best solution available to protect them and their interests in criminal court. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.