Jail or Probation - Which should you choose?

If you are arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, during the court process the State will almost always make an "offer" for plea - rather than go to trial. The State may "offer" jail time or probation depending on the crime. Depending on the crime, the offers will vary. (They also will vary based on negotiations by your attorney, your prior record, and the facts of the case.)

Should you take the jail time or probation? I sometimes recommend people take the jail time. This is an unpopular opinion but it makes sense for some people. Especially if they already have some jail credit while they were waiting to bond out.

If you are a first time offender you should not take either without first discussing your options with an attorney. There are first time offender programs that you may be eligible for which allows you to avoid a conviction and have the case dismissed after completion.

Why take the jail rather than probation? Because usually, when you get out of jail, you'll have no probation - no restrictions of any sort (other than court costs). The jail time will be much shorter than probation. A minimum term of probation for most cases is 12 months for misdemeanors, 24 months for felonies. Those are minimums.

Probation can be tough. At a minimum probation requires:

1. Meeting with a probation officer at least monthly.

2. Giving up your right to search and seizure - that means the police can search your house, your car, or your person, at any time, WITHOUT probable cause, during the time you are on probation.

3. Random drug tests.

4. Expensive costs for programs like anger management or drug counseling.

5. Notification to your employer that you are on probation.

6. If you commit another crime while on probation, you will go to jail - with a high bond - and in the case of felony probation, with no bond.

As you can see, it is easy to violate your probation. And if you violate your probation, it is up to the judge to decide what happens. Not the State, and not your probation officer. Depending on the judge, the penalties for violation of probation will be much stiffer.

Obviously, no one wants to go to jail. But if you think you might violate your probation, jail is the easier option.

If you have any questions about which you should choose, call an experienced attorney who practices in your area and is familiar with the judge in your case.


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