Under Georgia law, courts typically have the power to probate all, or part of a criminal sentence. While you would normally be sitting in jail for the whole sentence, probated sentences allow you to serve the time under the supervision of a probation officer, going about your life, rather than sitting in jail. The benefit is that even misdemeanor crimes in Georgia carry a potential 12 month sentence, with felony cases carrying even more time. Hypothetically, you could be sitting in jail for 12 months for a speeding ticket, although that situation is very rare.
While probation is a great alternative to sitting in jail, its no joke, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. When you enter a plea, the judge usually imposes terms and conditions of probation. If any of these terms and conditions are not met, or violated, the judge has the power to sentence you into custody for the remainder of your original sentence (usually at least 12 months). While conditions of probation will differ from court to court, the common general conditions include:
As you can see, there are a lot of conditions to follow, even though your case seems to be over once your plea has been entered. There are also special conditions that accompany most sentences- your sentencing judge will go over these with you and set out timelines for you to complete the requirements. Common special conditions may include attending driving school, or DUI school, going to AA/NA meetings, paying all of your fines and surcharges, and other remedial measures the court sees as necessary.
Often times, when people come to an attorney during probation, it is because their probation officer has let them know that they plan on revoking their probation. In essence, your probation officer feels that you haven’t upheld your end of probation, and they are going to ask the judge to throw you in jail for the rest of your sentence. It is essential to have an attorney represent you in these hearings and throughout the matter, as probation officers are usually done dealing with their probationer by this point. While I have seen people revoked for very minor violations of probation (small traffic ticket, etc.), usually the officer will claim that they have made many attempts to get someone to comply, and cut breaks time and time again. Failing to call or go see your probation officer is a sure fire way to end up back in front of your original judge, facing some jail time.
If your facing a probation violation hearing, or if you have general questions about your probation terms and how they will impact you, always consult with an attorney. My office is available to consult with anyone in Georgia, and I am happy to go over your situation with you.