August 2010 Archives

Dealing With the Probation Department Prior to Sentencing In Michigan Criminal Cases

August 15, 2010,

Your First Contact with the Probation Department

If you are convicted of a a Michigan Criminal offense, your first contact with probation will occur after you are found guilty. In felony cases, the Judge is required to order a presentence report which is prepared by the probation department. In misdemeanor cases, a presentence report is discretionary unless it involves a drinking and driving offense. If you are convicted of a drinking and driving offense in Michigan, substance abuse evaluations are mandatory. When you are referred to the probation department for an investigation, you should remember that the probation officers have a huge caseload and are often unable to hold your hand through the process. Our Clinton Township criminal defense attorneys have found that the best way to deal with the probation officers is to help them help you! I advise my clients to:

  1. Be early for any appointment, dress appropriately.
  2. Do not draw attention to flashy jewelry or clothing with messages.
  3. Be extremely polite and do not display a bad attitude or hostility.
  4. Have a folder with organized copies of any positive documents ready.
  5. Do not ask the probation officer to make copies. This will show your lack of organization and need to be managed and supervised.
  6. Be ready to provide a drug test. If you fail a test, you are just asking for additional conditions such as random testing, counseling.
  7. Get into counseling before your interview if you need help and provide the probation officer with proof.

Your Probation Officer Writes Everything Down That You Say

When talking to the probation officer, you should fare better by following the above guidelines. Your Michigan Probation Officer may have 100's of clients. The probation officer has power to make numerous recommendations to the Judge about your sentence conditions. Do not volunteer information to the probation officer because it will go into your permanent file. For example, if you used cocaine 20 years ago and it doesn't show up on your record and is no longer an issue, do not volunteer this information which may result in additional probation conditions. Similarly, do not volunteer details about your criminal case. Your probation officer will already have the police report and you run the risk of incriminating yourself if you talk about the case too much. It is best to ask your attorney what you should say about your criminal case. Most importantly, do not make things worse by lying to the probation officer. The probation officer will have your past records and may be testing you by asking questions where the answers are already known.

Be Proactive To Reduce Conditions And Supervision

If you can show the probation officer that you are someone who does not need to be monitored or supervised by the system, you may save yourself from having burdensome conditions imposed. In this regard, if you need counseling, our lawyers may direct you to begin a program and provide proof of counseling at your probation interview.

After You Are Placed On Probation

In Michigan, you can be placed on probation for up to 5 years for a felony and 2 years for a misdemeanor. After you are placed on probation, you may be required to report to a probation officer once per month or as directed by the Judge. Remember, probation and supervision is imposed upon people that cannot manage themselves. You lose freedom as a result of illegal conduct. The idea is to dig yourself out of the system and regain your liberty. Again, help the probation officer help you. If you are compliant, the probation officer may recommend that your probation be non-reporting or that your probation be terminated early. If you cannot comply with a condition of your probation, you should explain your situation to your probation officer as soon as possible. The probation officer may try to help you with this problem. If the probation officer does not help you, then you will need to file a motion to modify your probation before the same Judge that sentenced you. If you have been a good probationer, your officer may be able to help you when you have a hearing before the Judge. You will want to consult an attorney if you cannot comply with the conditions of your probation because you can be sentenced to jail time for a probation violation.