As a starting point, my ‘norm’ is to impose five years probation if the guidelines allow for a prison sentence, and the person is not going to prison. If the guidelines are in the x to 17 range, four years probation may be appropriate. If the guidelines are in the x to 11 range, three years probation may be appropriate. Two years probation seems appropriate for the significantly less than one year range offender (i.e. x to 9); and one year probation would seem to be appropriate for defendants who really don't have any issues to address on probation; or possibly no probation. I sometimes use the possible maximum sentence plus the sentence guidelines as a reference point whether somebody should even be on probation. Unless there are substance abuse, assaultive or sexual conduct issues ‘requiring’ probation, a low sentence guidelines and/or low possible maximum sentence may be a sufficient indicator that probation is not appropriate.
Unless there is significant restitution, I don’t necessarily need to put somebody on probation or have probation extended to collect restitution. We have pretty good collections programs otherwise in both counties.
I do not like to ‘warehouse’ a defendant in jail for one year. If probation is imposed that means saving approximately two months jail for sanctions. Otherwise, if it’s going to be a one year incarceration, my preference is the prison sentence. Especially now that there are re-entry programs available to parolees and often in excess of what we can offer via probation.
If probation, and there are non-marijuana substance abuse issues I generally require NA meetings at a minimum of 2 or 3 times per week and random drug testing at a minimum of 2 or 3 times per week as directed by the field agent. If its marijuana, random drug testing two times per month.
I am more and more requiring in all my probationary terms a curfew whereby defendant must be in his/her approved residence between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless excused by first obtaining written permission from the field agent. (And I’m wondering if it should start at 10 p.m.) and that a probationer cannot use or possess without a court order any controlled substance or substance for hallucinatory purposes or drug paraphernalia; or be with anyone you know to use or possess these items. If a medical marijuana exception is actually medically appropriate (and we do have two or three such cases), my ‘norm’ is to require the same to be in tablet form.
I do like to use SCRAM and/or tether as a means of keeping a probationer on the ‘straight and narrow’.
I do not like to do community service if there is any chance the probationer may take advantage of an innocent third party.
I generally do not mind giving a defendant the benefit of HYTA, 7411 or DSA if through no fault of their own, defendant was not able to comply with all of the terms of probation. This does require a good faith effort by the defendant to comply with all required terms. Many times the issue is non-payment. Unless payment was a 'mandatory requirement' (which I sometimes do), the above rule applies. What happens then is that if the defendant, through no fault of their own, has made a good faith effort, but been unable to pay off all of the monies owed, s/he will receive a satisfactory discharge, but the case will not be actually dismissed until all monies are paid.
I generally don’t allow a defendant to do community service in lieu of payment unless they are in the
Mental Health Court. I do sometimes also make an exception if so convinced by the assigned probation officer. My philosophy is that if a person can do community service, he/she can also work. It might be odd jobs or menial labor, but then that is also maybe an appropriate consequence for their actions.
I generally do not allow for an early release from jail except as recommended by the PSI writer or if by sentence agreement, but sometimes to make an exception for my MHC probationers. The idea being what is in the best interest of this person with mental health issues and what is necessary or appropriate for the protection of the community.
As a general rule before I allow for an early discharge from probation for an offense involving CSC or a crime of violence, I would ask that the victim and prosecutor be given an opportunity for input.
Finally, I can be wrong.