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Criminal Defense

How Much Does a Probation Lawyer Cost?

6 min read
Francesca Toledo, J.D.

by Francesca Toledo, J.D.

If you’re facing criminal charges, you may face jail time. Sometimes, especially for first offenses, a judge may grant probation instead.

Probation can help keep you out of prison even if you plead guilty to charges. A lawyer is essential for negotiating short and favorable probation terms.

How Much Does a Probation Lawyer Cost?

If you hire a traditional attorney for a probation matter, you will usually have to pay a retainer fee before they begin working on your case. Subsequently, your lawyer will require payment for every hour they work on your case. Their hourly rates vary greatly, often costing between $200 to $750 an hour.

High costs lead many individuals to forgo hiring a criminal defense attorney and instead settle for a public defender. Unfortunately, public defenders do not always have enough time to devote to every case.

How Can I Get Probation?

First, determine whether you are eligible for probation

Certain factors may put you in a more favorable position to get probation, depending on your state’s laws. A judge will consider:

  • Whether you’re a first-time offender, and if not, the extent of your criminal record
  • The severity of the crime which you are being charged with
  • Whether the crime was violent and caused anyone harm
  • The effect of prison time versus probation

Note that just because you may be eligible for probation does not mean it is guaranteed.

In most cases, it is up to the prosecutor and/or the judge if you can get probation as opposed to jail time. You will have the opportunity to ask for probation during plea negotiations or at the time of your sentencing. 

Being a probation attorney is one part of being a criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can put you in a position to ask for probation and will be your best ally. Court visits and sentencing are nothing to play around with, as they can have a significant impact on your life and future.

What Is Probation?

When you face misdemeanor or felony charges, the judge can impose various types of sentences, such as prison time. Probation is often granted when a prison sentence is “suspended,” meaning prison time is taken off the table only if the defendant agrees to comply with rules and obligations.

When a judge sentences you to probation, it entails a specified period in which you remain jail-free and in the community, but with court-ordered supervision. 

Probation is not available in every circumstance. To determine whether you’re eligible for probation, discuss your case with a probation lawyer.

How Does Probation Work?

A judge will decide the terms of your probation. They may grant straight probation, meaning you don’t go to jail at all, or they may impose a short jail sentence before your probation begins.

During your probation, you must comply with certain conditions. If you follow these rules throughout your probation, you can complete your probation, and your sentence will end. If at any point you violate these conditions, the judge can revoke your probation and order you to serve time in jail.

For example, suppose you are facing charges for drug possession and three years of jail time. A judge may decide alternatively to sentence you to four years of probation. If you complete the four years with no violations, you will have successfully completed your probation sentence. If one year into your sentence, you violate a condition, the judge may terminate your probation and order you to serve the original three-year prison sentence.

Probation provides an opportunity to stay out of jail, but should always be taken seriously. Ignoring rules and conditions can mean serious consequences.

Rules and Conditions to Follow During Probation

The judge will explicitly set forth the conditions of your probation sentence. They will vary, but can include:

  • Obeying all laws
  • No using or possessing of illegal drugs
  • Paying any required fees or fines
  • Reporting to a probation officer at specified times
  • No traveling outside the state without permission
  • Attending drug counseling or rehabilitation
  • Maintaining employment
  • Submitting to random drug tests
  • Avoiding communication with certain individuals
  • Allowing for GPS monitoring

Your conditions will depend on the circumstances of your case. 

Are Probation Officers Always Involved?

This will depend on your state and the type of probation. Most states offer informal and formal probation.

During informal probation, you do not have a probation officer supervising your sentence. Instead, you will be required to show up to court on certain occasions. 

If sentenced to formal probation, you can expect to have a probation officer. You will need to check in with your probation officer in person or by phone, typically once monthly.

If the judge assigns you to a probation officer, the officer serves as a resource to help ensure you are following all guidelines on the path to successful completion of your probation sentence.

Violating Probation

If you violate probation, this means you have failed to comply with the conditions of your probation. Repercussions will depend on the laws in your state and on how the judge wishes to handle your case.

If you have a probation officer, and they discover a violation, they may have the discretion to give you a warning or inform the judge. If the court gets involved, you will likely have to attend a violation hearing. 

During the hearing, the prosecutor must provide proof that you violated the rules of your probation. You will also have the opportunity to represent yourself, or have a lawyer represent you, to argue against the allegations.

If a judge finds you did violate your probation, they can:

  • Revoke your probation
  • Send you to jail
  • Assess fines

Their decision is up to them and state laws. You may also be able to appeal their decision, particularly with the help of an attorney.

How Long Is Probation?

There is no definitive time to stay on probation. The length of your probation sentence will depend on certain factors, including:

  • The crime committed
  • Whether it is a misdemeanor or felony
  • Whether or not this is your first offense
  • How your specific state handles probation

Probation is often one to three years, but can last longer. Depending on the circumstances and laws, probation can last 10 years or more, or even life in some cases. 

Is There a Difference between Probation and Parole?

Yes, there is a difference between probation and parole. Nonetheless, the two share some similarities.

Probation allows you to remain out of jail. Parole, on the other hand, is usually granted to individuals already in prison, after serving all, or part, of their prison sentence.

Both probation and parole require individuals to comply with conditions to avoid further trouble with the law. If someone on probation fails to follow the rules, the judge can sentence them to jail. If an individual on parole breaks the rules, the judge can return them to prison.

Getting the legal assistance you need doesn’t have to come with a high price tag. The independent lawyers in Unbundled Legal Help’s network understand the importance of affordability and will work to provide realistic payment options for you.

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