Probation offices have a terrible amount of control over the fate of a probationer. Like so many human relationships some people just don’t work well together. Probation officers are people and suffer from the usual human frailties, some enjoy the power of ordering others around and making their lives miserable. If you end up with an unlucky draw and get a PO you can’t work with, or that hates you, what are your options?
First the bad news, you can’t just switch probation officers. Judges don’t care if your PO hates you, they aren’t going to let you change. Probation departments don’t care about customer service, they aren’t going to let you change. Prosecutors really don’t care. So the odds are you can’t change.
Consider what you control and what you can change.
You need to be a fantastic probationer and follow all the rules exceptionally well. This can be difficult since our probation rules are outdated and overly broad. What does it mean to hang out with a “disreputable” person? No one knows, but your PO could threaten you with a revocation for living with a relative, or spouse, or child that is a felon or on probation themselves.
The best way to proceed with vague rules is that assume the apply and forbid whatever conduct you are contemplating. For example, it’s easier to move and get new roommates than it is to get revoked and go to prison.
Get done with your fines, fees, classes, and community service hours as soon as possible.
Some POs start off strict and abrasive to get probationers to comply and to avoid being too friendly. What I’ve seen is that once a few months/years pass, and once you complete your fines, fees, classes, etc., even the most cold-hearted PO can lose interest. POs sees many new faces every month, and there is someone they will like less than you. Time is on your side, so get done what you can now.
If you can change the county you report to, you can get a new PO. Locally Dallas County is the easiest for probationers. They have a lot of people to watch and don’t have time to micromanage each defendant. Smaller counties with bored POs have more time to mess with you, so find a way to move to Dallas, or at least out of the count your PO is in.
WARNING ABOUT MOVING- You have to get permission to move, and you have to report your address etc. So don’t move first, let your PO know your intentions and find a good reason to move (job, new apartment, closer to Deep Ellum) and get permission before you move.
Picture yourself in the future at a revocation hearing, and that your PO is trying to convince a judge to revoke you and send you to prison.
What evidence would you wish you had? Start keeping records, and keeping copies of everything you turn in. Did you make a payment for fees or fines? Keep the receipts. You’d be surprised at how shitty the bookkeeping can be in probation departments. Did you turn in your community service hours? Keep a copy for yourself in case your PO later claims you didn’t do them. Errors in revocation motions are common.
DON’T STOP REPORTING
POs know that if they can scare you into not reporting, then they can easily revoke you. NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PO SAYS YOU MUST REPORT. POs will threaten to revoke you, arrest you, drug test you, polygraph you, it doesn’t matter, you have to show up. Not showing up is really hard to defend in a revocation hearing. It’s a common trick to revoke probationers, scare them into running and not reporting. Don’t let that happen.