The word probation simply signifies a period of time in a defendant must abide by certain rules and conditions in exchange for some form of judicial leniency. Defendants that are on probation are often required to be supervised by probation officers who are tasked with making sure that the defendant is fulfilling his end of the bargain.
One form of probation in Oklahoma is known as a suspended sentence. A suspended sentence is a punishment handed down by a court that allows a defendant to remain out of jail or prison that comes with rules and conditions that the defendant must abide by or face revocation of that sentence. When the court hands down a suspended sentence they are actually sentencing the defendant to a term of incarceration but suspending the actual remand into custody provided the defendant agrees to the rules and conditions imposed by the court. When a defendant receives a suspended sentence they have officially received a conviction. The benefit of the suspended sentence despite a conviction is that the defendant is allowed to remain out of custody for a crime that carries a term of incarceration in either jail or prison. The length in which a defendant can be sentenced depends on the crime, the maximum range of punishment for the crime, and the criminal history of the defendant.
A deferred adjudication in Oklahoma (commonly referred to as a deferred sentence) occurs when a defendant enters a plea of guilty to the crime or crimes as charged but is not formally sentenced. The court agrees to "put off" sentencing to a later date provided the defendant agrees to certain terms and conditions required by the court. The length of a deferred adjudication cannot exceed ten years. Defendants that have received a deferred adjudication will typically have the same rules and conditions as those serving a suspended sentence. However, if a defendant fails to comply with the rules and conditions imposed by the court an acceleration proceeding will commence. An acceleration is commenced at the request of the State which essentially asks to court to accelerate your sentencing date from some point in the future to the present. The benefit of a deferred adjudication is that if a defendant successfully completes the period of probation the actual case will be dismissed.
Supervision in Oklahoma usually takes one of three forms. A defendant can be supervised by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Community Sentencing, or the District Attorney's office. The Department of Corrections is operated by the State of Oklahoma and is funded from the yearly state budget. Community Sentencing programs are usually established by counties for the purpose of supervising and rehabilitating defendants from their own jurisdiction. Typically Community Sentencing programs are better funded than the Department of Corrections which results in a greater number of services that can be provided by the state. A defendant can also be ordered to be supervised by the District Attorney's office in the county in which the charge was filed. Most counties in Oklahoma now have the ability to supervise defendants. Often those cases that are supervised by the district attorney are minor crimes such as misdemeanors and lesser felonies.
Revocations and Accelerations
When a probationer fails to abide by the rules and conditions set forth by the court the State can move to either revoke a suspended sentence or accelerate a deferred adjudication. Often this starts with the state filing an application with the court and an arrest warrant is issued. In Oklahoma a defendant has twenty days from the date of arraignment to have a hearing on the merits of his case or the application is dismissed. The right to a hearing within twenty days can be waived by the defendant. With a suspended sentence a defendant, if revoked, can be sentenced to serve the full amount of time the defendant originally pled to. A probationer if accelerated can be sentenced to serve the entire term of incarceration up to the maximum allowed by law even though the deferment period was for less time than the maximum allowed by law. Example: Crime carries a maximum of 5 years. Defendant gets 2 year deferred. Upon acceleration the defendant can receive up to 5 years in jail.
As shown probation in Oklahoma has its benefits. As suspended sentence serves to keep a defendant who would otherwise be facing a period of incarceration out of jail or prison. The deferred adjudication serves to give a defendant the opportunity to avoid a conviction on his/her criminal record. However, while beneficial, the penalties for violating the terms of probation can be harsh. Many people want to know what will happen if they violate the terms of probation. The answer to this is difficult to answer. Many factors go into determining how a violation will affect probation. The age of the defendant, criminal history, presence of prior violations, the underlying crime, the amount or type of violations are all factors to be considered when arriving at what possibly can result from a violation.