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Should You Tell Your Probation Officer About a New Arrest?

The considerations and thoughts listed below is what I often tell my clients in response to this question:

Many probation clients find themselves faced with a dilemma after they have been arrested and have bonded out on new charges. They ask: should I tell my probation officer in Georgia of the new charges (which could result in an immediate probation violation arrest)?

Condition #1 of just about any criminal sentence in Georgia is "Do not violate the laws of this or any other governmental unit." The commission of a new offense while on probation would constitute a violation of that condition. However, being arrested for violating a law is not the same as having committed a violation of the law, and being arrested for a new offense is notk in and of itself, a probation violation; nonetheless, if a probationer is arrested for a new offense and his or her probation officer (PO) learns of it, a blazing red flag appears that the probationer may have violated Condition #1. So, what to do about it?

Most probation officers will want to develop a rapport with their probationers and establish a level of trust that better serves both parties throughout the monitoring process. If a probationer fails to disclose an arrest, that failure may not only break a signed 'rules of understanding' agreement that might have been originally signed with probation, but it will also breach the trust of the probation officer. When that PO/probationer trust is breached, the consequences can be serious: any sentencing or resolution recommendation the PO may make as to the probation violation will likely be much worse than if there had been full disclosure; if/when the PO ultimately finds out about the arrest, there will definitely be a warrant for the probationer's arrest; the PO may not speak favorably to the prosecutor in the new case; getting the probationer on a revocation court calendar gets delayed and, accordingly, the wait-time in jail could increase, and the terms of future reporting are negatively affected and any 'breaks' the PO may be willing to give are probably gone.

When a probationer has bonded on a new offense and then tells the probation officer about the new charges, many times the probation officer will take a 'wait and see' approach and, prior to seeking revocation, will see what the disposition is of the new, "underlying" charges; or, even if the PO does not take a 'wait and see' approach, the PO may be willing to give a "walk-in" court hearing for the probation revocation; this "walk-in" hearing would not require that the probationer first turn himself in before he goes before the judge, which is a really, really helpful perk for the probationer.

While it is true that a PO may still arrest a probationer on-the-spot if a new arrest is reported, the consequences of not telling the PO of the new arrest can be dire. Obviously, if the PO has no way of finding out about the arrest, then the only way the PO learns of it is through an admission of the probationer, and probationers sometimes choose to hide the new development and hope to get away with it. Depending on how on-the-ball or actively involved the PO is, this could, on occasion, be successful. However, the technology that allows for immediate sharing of criminal records information between government agencies has greatly improved over the past few years, and most probation officers (especially those working with the Georgia Department of Corrections, such as county felony probation officers) will not have any difficulty in checking on a probationer's current criminal status with GCIC (the central database where criminal arrests and convictions are transmitted in Georgia). As such, a probationer crossing his/her fingers and hoping the PO will not learn of the arrest is a significant gamble, and the odds are not in the probationer's favor.

Navigating through the thicket of probation concerns in the middle of worrying about the consequences for the new arrest itself is very difficult. Dealing with these issues without a Lawrenceville criminal defense lawyer is like jumping out of a plane using a parachute with a poor safety record: with so much at stake, it would seem like a good idea to invest in a good lawyer. At Fox Firm, P.C., providing a safety net and the security of a good lawyer is our pride and specialty. Probation violation cases are no exception and Fox Firm, P.C., located in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, welcomes the opportunity to represent probationers charged with probation violation all around metro Atlanta. Don't hesitate to contact the firm for addtional information.

Categories: Probation Violations