Articles Posted in Probation

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In Michigan, when an individual is sentenced for a crime, the Court may place the person on probation for a specified term. The maximum term of probation that may be imposed for a misdemeanor is 2 years and 5 years for most felony cases. All persons convicted of a felony are monitored by the probation office assigned by the Circuit Court. In Macomb County, the probation department is located at 32 Market Street, Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Some of the District Courts, including the 40th District in St. Clair Shores, the 38th District in Eastpointe, the 41-A District which covers Sterling Heights and Shelby Township, the 41-B District in Clinton Township, have their own probation departments.

Typically, the terms of probation after sentencing include regular meetings with a probation officer, alcohol testing, drug testing, and counseling. Probation can be disruptive to one’s daily routine and compliance with numerous conditions can interfere with home, school and employment.

Our firm receives calls almost daily from clients who are on probation and want to get out of the system. I find myself using a line from the movie Jerry Maguire when someone calls our law firm and wants to get off probation; “HELP ME HELP YOU.” The following will explain what I mean.

Our firm will go to bat for the person who has substantially complied with the terms of probation. A probation order can only be modified or amended by the sentencing Judge. This means that a motion and a hearing must be scheduled to request relief from probation conditions. It is up to the client to supply positive information which will be included in a motion and advocated at a hearing. Your probation officer may be your best witness at a hearing to modify probation. A client wishing to get out of the system must impress the probation officer by being punctual, completing all programs and having a good attitude. Don’t be the person who is late for probation meetings, fails drug tests and gives the probation officer a hard time and then expect the probation officer to get on board with your plight to have your probation modified. Remember the movie Jerry Maguire, life improved for the aspiring pro football player (Cubba Gooding, Jr.) when his attitude improved.

We usually like our clients to have served at least ½ of the total term of probation before we will file a motion to terminate probation. In other words, if someone gets two (2) years of probation, a motion to terminate probation may be considered after one (1) year of compliance. The Court may entertain outright termination of probation, amending probation from reporting to non-reporting or modification of conditions.
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In Michigan, probation cannot exceed 2 years for misdemeanors and 5 years for felonies. Probation is determined at the time of sentencing and may include a component of incarceration. For example, our firm recently represented someone who was convicted of a felony, drunk driving third offense. The offender had 6 total drinking and driving convictions on his record and faced 1-5 years in prison. The Court was persuaded by the defendant’s employment and decision to begin a substance abuse treatment program. The defendant was sentenced to 2 years probation with the first 30 days in jail the Macomb County Jail; the minimum period of incarceration allowed by Michigan statute for felony drunk driving.

The least restrictive type of probation is called non-reporting or unsupervised. This means that the Defendant must be on good behavior during a period of probation and will be discharged at the end of probation provided the person does not violate any criminal laws. In addition, the Court may attach some conditions with non-reporting probation such as not leaving the State of Michigan without approval and attending an appropriate program (AA meetings or anger management).

Probation may also be supervised or reporting. The Court has broad power to place limitations and restrictions on otherwise legal behavior for a person who gets probation. For example, someone placed on probation may be prohibited from entering into a strip club or from using a computer. The image which is attached to this page is a copy of the probation conditions which are possible in Macomb County. Failure to abide by any of these provisions can result in termination of probation and incarceration.

Some counties, including Oakland and Ingham, employ a program known as Operation Nighthawk to monitor the behavior of those who are placed on probation. Operation Nighthawk is a program whereby probation officers along with law enforcement officers randomly visit probationers, usually after hours, to verify compliance. In an article which appears in the Ingham County Legal News, 55th District Court Judge says, “Unannounced sweeps by our probation office with local law enforcement officers are the backbone of Operation Nighthawk. NIGHTHAWK encourages probationers to follow their probation orders.”
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The 42-1 District Court, located in the City of Romeo, has posted a list of possible fines and costs for various crimes. The list also contains a warning as follows: ALL FINES AND COSTS ARE DUE AT THE TIME OF SENTENCING, WE DO NOT GIVE TIME TO PAY. This warning is followed by strong language that failure to pay fines and costs will result in jail time.

The approximate range of fines and costs for a first offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Impaired Driving (OWVI) in the Romeo District Court is from $1,000.00 to $1,500.00. For a second offense, the range jumps to $1,500.00 to $2,500.00. This does not include other costs such as probation oversight expenses, substance abuse screening, driver responsibility fees, police/municipal response costs, random testing and substance abuse counseling. The driver responsibility fee for OWI is $1,000.00 per year for 2 years and for $500.00 per year for 2 years upon conviction of Impaired Driving.

The fines and costs for drinking and driving offenses in the 42-1 Court in Romeo tend to be on the high side but are consistent with fines and costs imposed in other courts such as the 41-B District Court, Clinton Township, which is also located in Macomb County. Information about other district courts located in Macomb County can be found at the county’s website.

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

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