Probation is an alternative sentencing that offers offenders a different punishment than jail or prison time. Misdemeanor offenders receive a summary or misdemeanor probation term for them to serve as punishment for their offenses, thus avoiding jail. The terms of the probation depend on the type of conviction, the defendant’s background, particularly his/her criminal history, and the circumstances of the offense. It is worth also noting that violating the probation terms results in the revocation of your probation. You will then have to serve the jail sentence you avoided.
The Phoenix Criminal Attorney team outlines all the information you need to understand misdemeanor probation.
Understanding Misdemeanor Probation
Misdemeanors are non-violent, minor offenses whose punishment can be jail time instead of time in prison. The misdemeanor probation option can be arrived at either through:
- A plea agreement with the prosecution — In most situations, prosecutors agree to drop felony charges and, in return, require you to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, or
- During the sentencing hearing — This stage of the criminal justice system is when a presiding judge imposes a sentence on the defendant found guilty of having committed a crime. The judge considers the case’s evidence, mitigating and aggravating circumstances during the hearing. The judge's decision on a defendant’s punishment is guided by law and is reflective of the circumstances presented to him/her.
If you are on probation, you will spend time under community supervision. You will have to abide by the rules imposed by the judge as you engage in your daily routine.
Summary or misdemeanor probation is either supervised or unsupervised.
Supervised summary probation requires a regular check-in with a probation officer. The officer monitors the progress of the probationer’s adherence to the terms of the probation. The monitoring is relatively strict and is required for more serious misdemeanor offenses.
Unsupervised probation does not require monitoring. Thus you do not have to meet your probation officer. You must adhere to the probation terms per a written court order. This probation option is available for low-level misdemeanor violations.
Arizona law also provides for intensive probation. This probation is reserved for felony offenses.
Common Probation Phrases
Judges exercise a significant degree of discretion. However, before setting the probation terms, they factor in the defendant’s background, specifically, his/he criminal past and the nature of the offense. The conditions vary depending on the nature of the misdemeanor violation.
Here is a look at the terms a judge could impose on the various categories of misdemeanor violations.
- Common Probation Terms Defendants in Misdemeanor Violation Cases Face
Before looking at probation terms specific to some categories of misdemeanor offenses, let us look at the typical terms that each defendant will likely face upon conviction.
- Electronic monitoring
- Random drug testing
- Remaining under house arrest
- Community service
- Paying restitution fees to the victim
- Regular meetings with your probation officer if the probation is supervised, and
- Restriction from engaging in a new crime
- Convictions for Violent Misdemeanors
Examples of violent misdemeanors include assault or domestic violence. Some of the likely probation terms include the following:
- Travel restrictions
- Giving up on alcohol or drugs
- Mandatory enrolment in anger management programs
- Court-mandated therapy
- Relinquishing the right to possess or own guns
- Protective or no-contact orders — The orders restrict the offender from contacting the victim in the domestic violence case.
- Convictions for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Alcohol
Some of the possible probation terms include the following:
- Nightly curfews
- Alcohol treatment
- Mandatory enrolment in a DUI education program
- Prior consent to alcohol tests
- Driver’s license suspension or a restricted driver’s license
- A requirement to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) — An IID is a breathalyzer connected to your car’s ignition that prevents a driver from starting the vehicle with an alcoholic breath.
In some cases, defendants who commit non-violent drug and alcohol-related offenses, struggle with substance abuse, and are first-time offenders are eligible for drug court. Additionally, the courts require that you do not have a serious criminal background to be eligible.
Drug courts are a sentencing option for individuals facing drug-related charges. Arizona has the following types of drug courts:
- Juvenile drug court
- Family drug courts
- Drug courts specifically handling DUI cases
- Drug courts providing adult probation
Drug courts are available in the following counties:
- Maricopa county — It includes Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, and Scottsdale
- Pinal county
- Mohave county
- Pima county
- Yavapai county
As pointed out earlier, failing to adhere to the terms issued for your probation could result in jail time. Probation terms in certain situations can be restrictive, and a defendant can easily violate the terms, knowingly or unknowingly. A defense attorney helps negotiate for lenient terms to avoid the risk of you violating the conditions.
Each county has the discretion to develop and administer drug courts. Thus, the details of the court vary by county. However, what remains common is the defendant pleading guilty and being assigned probation terms by the drug court. Further, the defendant can access drug treatment programs.
The judge, county prosecutor, and your attorney’s input formulate the terms of your probation. This approach aims at preventing recidivism. Once you complete your probation, the drug charges will be dropped, and your sentence will be set aside or reduced. You will be found guilty and sentenced if you fail to complete your probation or violate a term.
In Maricopa County, for example, the defendant will plead guilty to join the drug treatment program. Once he/she completes the program, the courts will require that he/she:
- Undergo random drug testing
- Become a full-time student or maintain stable employment
- Meet regularly with your probation officer
- Make regular court appearances at the superior court
- Sign a contract outlining the next steps in the drug treatment program at every court appearance
- Adhere to the terms and conditions of your signed contract
Misdemeanors Ineligible for Summary or Misdemeanor Probation
Some misdemeanor violations will result in the courts denying you probation terms. Thus, you will serve the complete sentence upon conviction. The ineligible misdemeanor crimes include the following:
- Offenses committed while you were out on probation
- Dangerous crimes against minors — ARS-13-705 addresses crimes whose victims are under 15 years old. Per the statute, a crime meets the DCAC (Dangerous Crimes Against Children) threshold if the following are true:
- The crime is an eligible offense.
- The defendant was 18 years old when he/she committed the offense or was tried as an adult for the crime.
- When the offense was allegedly committed, the victim was 15 years old, under 15 years old, or an unborn child. Additionally, the defendant must have reasonably known the victim’s age.
- Dangerous crimes — ARS-13-704 defines a dangerous crime as either of the following:
- A crime involving the use, discharge, or threatening exhibition of a dangerous or deadly weapon, or
- Knowingly or intentionally inflicting serious physical injury to another individual
Generally, first-time misdemeanor offenders without a criminal record are eligible for misdemeanor probation. However, exceptions to this rule exist.
Length of Time Probation Lasts
Generally, probation is predominantly about the terms and not necessarily the length of time an offender remains on probation. In most cases, the length of time depends on the type of misdemeanor in question.
- Class 1 misdemeanors — Offenses in these categories are the most severe. You will remain on probation for three years if convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor violation. Some of the offenses in this category include the following:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
- Disorderly conduct
- Driving with a suspended license
- Criminal threatening
- Resisting arrest
- Theft of a property valued at no more than $1,000
- Criminal damage with losses of between $250 and $1,000
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Assault causing serious physical injury
You will likely serve up to six months in jail for this category of misdemeanors if the judge prefers jail time over probation.
- Class 2 misdemeanors — The potential jail sentence of up to 4 months for Class 2 misdemeanors. Examples of Class 2 misdemeanor offenses include the following:
- Reckless driving
- Public nuisance
- Leaving the scene of a car crash
- Criminal damage valued at less than $250
- DUI with an open container
- Contempt of court
- Certain domestic violence offenses
- Intentionally exposing another individual to an infectious disease
- Attempting to commit a Class 1 misdemeanor offense
- Class 3 misdemeanors — This category of misdemeanors is the least severe of the three classifications. Convictions could result in a possible jail time of up to one month. If the judge grants probation instead of time in jail, you could remain on probation for up to one year. Some of the crimes that fall in this category include the following:
- Excessive speeding
- Criminal nuisance
- Certain domestic violence offenses
- Attempting to commit a Class 2 misdemeanor
- Knowingly touching another with an intent to injure o provoke the individual, or assaultive touching
- Providing false information, especially to police officers
- Criminal trespassing in the third degree
Note: Extreme DUI in Arizona, a violation of ARS 28-1382(a)(1), is a DUI involving a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.15% to 0.199%, resulting in a probation sentence of up to 5 years. Driving with high blood alcohol content is deemed extreme since a regular DUI involves BAC levels of 0.08% to 0.149%.
Extreme DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. Violations of ARS 28-1382(a)(1) are only Class 1 misdemeanor offenses if the courts convict you of the crime as a first-time or second-time offender. You are a second-time offender if you commit the crime within seven years of the first offense. A conviction for an extreme DUI within seven years of the second will result in felony charges. The third-time offense is a Class 4 felony.
If your BAC level exceeds 0.20%, prosecutors will pursue super-extreme DUI charges under ARS 28-1382(a)(2). First-time and second-time offenses are Class 1 misdemeanors. Courts deem you a second-time offender if you are arrested for a DUI exceeding 0.20% for a second time within seven years. Should you violate ARS 28-1382(a)(2) for a third time within seven years of the second violation, the state will charge you with a Class 4 felony.
Additionally, the judge could extend your probation in cases where you have not paid restitution to the victim(s). The judge could extend your probation for up to two years.
Early Termination of Probation
Courts can terminate your misdemeanor probation before the set time elapses. Early termination is only possible if a probationer files, with the help of an attorney, a Petition for Early Termination. A petition is only successful if the probation meets specific conditions, namely:
- Complete all court-mandated counseling and treatment programs
- Pay restitution in full, and
- Settle all court fees and costs
Further, probationers must remain on probation for at least half of the court-issued period. Any violation of your probation terms adversely affects your Petition for Early Termination.
You violate your probation when you fail to comply with or break any probation term. A probation violation is consequential. Judges will hear the allegations, consider the evidence that supports the probation violation allegation, and determine the appropriate action. Judges consider probation violation allegations in probation violation hearings. A judge can revoke or reinstate your probation with the possibility of adding other terms.
Probation Violation Hearings
Below is a look at the probation violation hearing process.
- The probation officer collects evidence to present in the probation violation hearing if he/she suspects you violated your probation terms — Probation officers are the accusing parties in probation violations. With enough evidence, he/she files a Petition to Revoke Probation.
- The officer files a petition over the alleged probation violation. The courts then issue a warrant for your arrest.
- Police officers arrest you and take you into custody — Once arrested, you cannot be released on bond. The courts can only release you on your own recognizance.
- Your arraignment — Your arraignment should happen within a week after your arrest. You will either plead not guilty or admit to the violation. Your case will proceed to the hearing stage if you plead not guilty. The judge will set the hearing date to 7 to 20 days after the hearing. Admitting to the violation moves the process to the disposition stage by skipping the hearing.
- Formal sessions of the probation violation hearings — Prosecutors rely on probation officers to present evidence of a probation violation. Courts allow hearsay submissions. Probation violation hearings do not place the beyond-a-reasonable doubt burden of proof on the prosecution. It only requires a preponderance of the evidence. On the other hand, your defense attorney will argue that no probation violation occurred or that the violation does not warrant a revocation of your probation.
- Should the judge find that a probation violation occurred, he/she will order a probation violation disposition where the judge will sentence you for probation violation — Probation violation dispositions hearings are held between 7 and 20 days after the hearing. Judges can either take the following actions at the disposition hearings.
- Reinstate probation and release you on a supervised release. You could receive additional and more strict terms.
- Revoke your probation and send you to jail to serve a sentence as initially expected.
When you violate a minor probation term, you commit a technical violation, namely:
- Missing a counseling session
- Arriving late on a scheduled meeting with your probation officer
- Staying out past curfew hours
- Missing the deadline set for paying restitution or court fees
The list above is not exhaustive. Further, courts issue less harsh penalties for technical violations. Courts can impose additional probation terms or reinstate prior terms with strict supervision.
Term 1 Violation
Arizona courts deem you to have committed a Term 1 violation when you commit a crime while on probation. Term 1 violations result in harsher penalties since the courts consider the violation a major violation. Not engaging in another crime is a significant probation term.
The courts will revoke your probation if prosecutors can sufficiently prove the violation occurred. As a result, instead of imposing probation terms, you will face jail time of the same length as a judge would have imposed. You will also face criminal charges for the crime you are accused of. A conviction will likely result in jail or prison time and fines, depending on the magnitude of the offense.
Find Phoenix Criminal Attorney Near Me
An experienced attorney’s assistance in your case will help you immensely. He/she can negotiate a plea bargain that reduces your charges to a misdemeanor and allows you to serve probation rather than jail time. Further, your attorney will represent you and appear on your behalf when you are charged with a probation violation or when a court issues a warrant for your arrest.
The Phoenix Criminal Attorney team has extensive experience defending clients facing misdemeanor probation violations. We have successfully helped defend clients facing criminal charges. We can also offer you or a loved one legal assistance. Call us at 602-551-8092 for an initial consultation.