(The content below was transcribed from an interview done with Acacia Law. We think you’ll find it much easier
and more enjoyable to read this way.)
Interviewer: What are the possible punishments for violating probation? What normally happens?
Acacia Law: Three things normally. One is that they give up on you and sentence you to prison. The second way is to reinstate you on probation, but give you jail time. Depending on how much credit you have on your 12 months, will determine how much jail time you are supposed to get, as opposed to prison time.
And the third way is that if the person is charged with violating probation, but the probation officer doesn’t think it’s super serious and doesn’t require in the petition to revoke that they be arrested, then that is the third alternative available in terms of possible venues for which the defendant is headed as a consequence.
The reinstatement on probation can add additional time of probation. For example if you’ve been on it for three years and you violate probation. The time you are in custody they won’t count as you being on probation, they subtract that and they may add more years as a term and condition of probation depending on the particular case.
Interviewer: When you are someone’s attorney, do you stick with them through sentencing and probation and all that, or will they call you back once they are out of jail or what happens?
Acacia Law: Good question. A lot of attorneys, once the sentencing is done, file a motion to withdraw with the court and withdraw from the case. The reason they do that is they don’t want to be bothered with probation violations and things of that nature. They feel their job is done.
Me, on the other hand I do stick with them through probation. And if they get violated, all they have to do is notify me. Now, I normally obviously charge for those services because it is a separate case altogether. Once the sentencing is completed on the underlying case, my fee agreement and contract is complete.
But I don’t ever take my name off in a motion to withdraw. What I do is I simply stay on the case and I can monitor it and that way, if they run into problems down the road, I know where they are. I know what they have for circumstances and if there’s anything I can do to persuade the court to reinstate them, or the probation office or a combination of the probation office, court and prosecutor’s office, and I take advantage of that to get them the best possible result. And, so, yes I will normally carry them through their probation period. All they need to do is call me. If I can settle it with a phone call I won’t charge them, but if it becomes complex or they are in custody, then yes, we have to treat it accordingly.
Interviewer: Now how often do you get these probation violation cases? Are they always from past clients or do you get a lot of new ones?
Acacia Law: I get new ones as well. I get both. A lot of people that I’ve found where I’m coming into the case for the first time on a petition to revoke is based on the fact that they had a public defender or a privately contracted public defender, I’ll represent them during the proceedings and so they’re count on the people in my unit to counter.
Interviewer: I was asking you do you get a lot of these cases and how many of them are from past clients versus like just brand new ones that come into you off the street.
Acacia Law: I would say it’s probably about 60/40 in favor of new clients. If basically they’re not happy with what the public defender did, they are looking at us to do a better job and so that’s why they expect us to use our forces to go back and reinstate them and get them off of whatever problems they are having at the moment. What’s nice about probation court is that they have their own separate courts.
Interviewer: Oh, really.
Acacia Law: In Fourth Avenue Jail, in Maricopa County, most of the jurisdictions have a separate parole department, and, again, it’s not technically parole it’s community supervision but it really is the same thing, just with a different title. And so, basically, yeah.
Interviewer: When people are searching, when they have a problem with violating probation, what will they normally call it when they are searching for help. What kind of attorney would they search for or what kinds of things would they say that would let you know that they are searching for help?
Acacia Law: I can just look who’s been on my website. A lot of times, they’ll say that they’ve been, well, one term is page two’d and what that means is they are currently in custody on one matter and then a new matter is charged and that is deemed a probation violation. That’s one circumstance. There are… I’m doing a terrible job today. I can’t even think straight.
Interviewer: When someone violates probation how does the common person express it? What kind of a lawyer would they look for?
Acacia Law: Basically what they are looking for is what you want to get is a certified specialist in criminal law. Only because typically they have been through the probation courts so many times that they know the judges, they know how they operate, and the way that people get to them is by simply oftentimes it’s a loved one calling because someone in their family or a friend, or a mother, father, is on probation, they get violated they get placed in custody and they call me and advise that ‘I have a son who was on probation and is now in custody and held without bond pending resolution of this probation violation.’ And so that’s the most common way.
Whether they are a new client or not, the same circumstances give rise to the same concerns. Will the individual be reinstated on probation and, if so, will there be additional jail or additional probation requirements? Or, alternatively, will the person’s probation be revoked and they be sent to prison?
Interviewer: So these are emergency calls when they happen, typically?
Acacia Law: Yes – these are short time burners. They don’t normally set things out 30 days like normal courts. If you have an initial appearance, an arraignment on your probation violation charges, then, essentially, you face the court, you have certain terms that you are accused of violating and the court will set things up for one of two things.