Timothy O. McCalep

Bill would make early termination of probation an automatic consideration

When an individual is charged with a crime, there are different ways the case can be resolved. In some cases, the defendant decides to plead not guilty and proceed to trial. In other cases, the defendant agrees to resolve the case with a plea deal or is entered into a diversion program in which penalties are suspended, both of which can involve probation.

Probation is actually quite commonly imposed in Georgia courts. In fact, Georgia has the highest rate of probation assignments nationwide, to the point where the system is over-burdened. At present, there is one probation officer for roughly 200 offenders, which is a significant stress on resources. 

The frequency of probation assignments is not the only reason for the stress on the system. Long probation sentences also contribute to the high number of offenders on probation. As a way to address the problem, lawmakers have introduced a bill in the state house which would allow offenders to be removed from probation more quickly.

The bill does this by allowing early termination for those on probation for certain non-violent felonies. Although it is already possible to end probation early under current law, the bill would require automatic review of the possibility after three years on probation.

The bill is partially based on research showing that the first several years of probation are the most likely time for recidivism. In addition, the bill would streamline the process for judges to convert court fines into community service to prevent offenders from violating probation because of financial difficulties.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the topic of probation, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney to effectively resolve a criminal case when a period of probation is on the table. 

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