Starting Probation in Travis County, Texas

Starting Probation in Travis County, Texas

Hi, I'm Charlie Roadman, Austin criminal defense attorney. Today I want to talk about probation, and specifically the day of probation where you start it. The first part of that day, after getting to the court, is filling out the plea paperwork with me or whoever your attorney is. Then the second step is filling out with probation intake form, which looks like this. It's just basic demographic data about you. It does have three references that they want. They're not going to call the references, but you should have a name, address, and phone number for three people. So once you fill that out, we go in front of the judge, and typically a misdemeanor unit plea is about 45 seconds long, where we plea no contest. And the judge just says, "Are you who you are?" And you say, "Yes, sir," or, "Yes, ma'am. And the judge says, "Okay," and and then, "Here's the deal."

After that, you'll talk with an in court probation officer, who's usually over in the corner. Well, first they'll go over with you these conditions of probation and have you sign, and there's about 40 different conditions. The main few are you can't drink alcohol, you can't use any drugs and you can't get rearrested again, and you basically have to do whatever they tell you to do. So they'll go over that and then they'll give you a map of where to go in the courthouse. Then a probation assignment form where there's the two steps you have to do when you leave the courthouse.

So this first one, they tell you to just go to the tax room, and that's on the first floor of the courthouse. It looks like this. They'll work out the court costs to you, which is generally $500, $550, and they want a payment plan or paid in full if you can. The second place they want you to go when you leave the courthouse is to 411 west 13th Street, which is the probation building. That looks like this. It's about two, three blocks away from the courthouse, so you can walk there. Generally it'll take you 20 or 30 minutes there. They're going to give you a handbook that looks like this. This is on my website, so you can download it in advance if you would like. The handbook talks about general questions about probation, how you should handle and how to complete it.

So your first probation, your first actual probation meeting with your probation officer will be set on that day. It's generally three weeks away from that court date. You can go either to this north, if you live up north, they'll assign you to the north one. If you live down south, they'll assign you to the south probation office. Now in between the plea date and that first meeting with your PO, there's a probation orientation where you can do that any day, Monday through Thursday, at either 8:30 or 3:30. You just have to do it before your first meeting. And really what they do is just, they go over this book and they just read this book to you, even though you've already had the book for a while. Now after that, there really are just multiple meetings with your probation officer. It depends how often. It's typically every month for a while. Sometimes they will reduce that down to every couple months, depending on how you're doing.

Now, I want to talk to you about five keys to being successful in probation. The first one is act happy to be on probation. Don't make their job harder. Now I say, they have two file cabinets, one for punks and one for not punks, and you've got to stay in the not punk file cabinet. The way you do that is you don't cause them any trouble, and in fact, you don't even frown. You don't even look sad. Just be pleasant, happy and take notes and just do everything they tell you to do. That's step one. Now bring a book. Be patient. Expect everything to be slow and inconvenient. Now sitting in chairs like this, this is an intake department, it's going to be maddening and you just have to figure out how to make it not maddening. Bring a book, bring a notepad, take some notes.

The second thing, don't drink alcohol, smoke weed, or get arrested. Those are the three things that people get revoked on probation the most for. Absolutely don't drink alcohol. That's probably 70% of revocation are when they catch you drinking alcohol. The third is ask permission to travel and do it in advance. So don't say, "I'm going to Colorado on Christmas." Say, "May I go to Colorado for Christmas?" And when you're doing that, try to make that in October when you ask them. You don't just tell them you're going somewhere, because you do have to get permission to do it. Four, complete classes, community service, and pay fees. Basically you just have to do everything they tell you to do and do it quickly. Don't wait for it to be convenient because the thing is, it will never be convenient. There's never going to be a time where you just say, "Oh, I can totally have time." It'll always be difficult, so just do it soon.

And five, if they say something that you can't do, just say, "No problem." I say, if they tell you, you can't go to your best friend's wedding, say, "You know what? I didn't like them anyway." And then you get out to your car and you call me and I will do my best to fix it. I can usually fix everything unless you're being bad on probation. If they catch you drinking alcohol and all sorts of stuff, and then they say you can't go to a wedding, the judge is going to go, "No, this guy's just going to go drink some more." Anyway, if you're perfect, I can pretty much accomplish whatever you need done.

All right. Best of luck. Hang in there. Call me if you have any questions.