What Happens if I Miss a Probation or Parole Appointment?
Probation and parole, while two very different beasts, both result in a criminal offender either not going to jail at all or getting out of jail early. Both probationers and parolees face the prospect of jail time—including completion of their original sentence—if they commit violations of the conditions of their probation or parole, but the truth is the state has little incentive to send most probationers or parolees to jail or prison. The costs are high, and with most low-level or non-violent offenders, the benefits are small to non-existent. So the state generally is slow to put probationers or parolees in jail. This may be largely a result of certain presumptions in the law.
Illinois law creates a presumption in favor of probation. Most offenses require probation unless the court determines that a sentence of jail or prison time is necessary to protect the public or that a sentence of probation would result in diminishing the seriousness of the crime. In deciding against probation, the court is required by law to consider the nature of the charged offense and the circumstances of the offense, as well as the history and character of the accused. So, once a court has decided upon probation in a given offense, what kind of probation violation will send a probationer to jail?
Illinois Is Trying Not to Incarcerate People
Illinois as a policy matter strives to avoid incarcerating people who don’t need to go to jail or prison. Nationwide, roughly two-thirds of convicted offenders get probation. In Illinois, the proportion is even higher, with people on probation outnumbering the prison population by 2.5 to 1. The same presumption in favor of parole does not exist.
Probation and parole are not the same. Parole is the early release of a convict for a variety of reasons, which usually include good behavior, a relatively minor non-violent defense, or some similar mitigating factor. The parolee remains under the authority of the state corrections department.
In contrast, probation is a sentence all by itself, rather than an alteration of a sentence. Judges have the option—for most crimes in Illinois, it is the preferred option—of sentencing guilty offenders to probation. People on probation are under the authority of the probation agency and court in the jurisdiction where they were convicted. The state is not involved, and the conditions under which they live after sentencing are similar, but not the same.
It is important to note two major differences between probationers and parolees. Most parolees are felons released for any number of reasons, and for as long as they do not receive their final discharge, they remain subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections and can be brought back into custody for probable cause with the issuance of a warrant. Probable cause can consist of any number of things that make it reasonable to believe that the parolee has committed a crime, but there are two mandatory conditions of parole: the parolee cannot commit a crime, and the parole cannot have in his or her possession a firearm or other dangerous weapon. Probationers generally live under less stringent supervision—no crimes, no guns still applies—but bringing them in for a hearing on probation violations is more discretionary for the probation agency and court supervising the offender’s probation.
Local Probation Agencies Have Significant Discretion Regarding Probation Violations
People who violate the terms of their probation are not automatically subject to punishment. In fact, if a probationer violates the terms of his court order setting for the conditions of his probation or any other requirements set by the probation department, the case is sent back to the court where the probationer was originally convicted. The court holds a hearing, at which the judge can allow more time to determine if the probationer has actually violated the court order or allow the probationer time to come into compliance. Even if the judge finds that the probationer has violated his probation order, the judge can allow the probationer to continue serving the original probationary sentence no modification, modify the conditions of probation, or impose whatever sentences were available when the probationer was convicted. In other words, the judge is free to not change any of the terms of probation, even if the probationer violated terms.
Further, in the event a probationer seems to have violated one or more of the terms of his probation, the supervising agency does not have to file a violation of probation notice with the court. The supervising probation officer can serve the probationer with a Notice of Intermediate Sanctions. The notice lets the probationer know the nature of the violations and the sanctions. These can include closer supervision, a short period of incarceration, home detention, or other sanctions deemed necessary. The probation can accept the sanctions, which apply immediately. Upon completion of the sanctions, the court cannot revoke probation for that offense. If the probationer rejects the sanctions, the probation officer may file a violation of probation notice with the court and probation could be revoked.
In light of all this, what should a person on probation do if they miss an appointment with their probation officer? Realistically, this is among the most minor of possible probation violations, provided it inadvertent or unavoidable. It is, nonetheless, a probation violation.
Courts and probation agencies statewide have been issued instructions on how to advise probationers under such circumstances. They are advised to immediately contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court where they are under probation. The clerk will then issue instructions on next steps. In most cases, depending on the reasons for the missed appointment, there likely will be no major consequences, and revocation of probation is extraordinarily unlikely.
If You Have Missed an Appointment With Your Probation Officer, in the Wheaton-DuPage County Area, Contact the Criminal Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C.
If you miss an appointment with your probation officer, there are two steps you should take immediately. First, contact the Clerk of Court where you are on probation and explain the situation. Second, prepare for the worst by calling the criminal attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C. The attorneys of Martin & Kent use our inside knowledge of the criminal justice system to best represent you under the circumstances. For a consultation in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, contact us 24 hours a day at (630) 474-8000.