The rules for probation depend on the type of probation to which an offender has been sentenced. In Texas, there are three primary types of supervised probation, or probation that involves a sentenced individual reporting to a probation officer. The first is community supervision, or county probation, for a state offense like larceny.
This type of probation is for adult offenders, which Texas law defines as sentenced offenders over the age of 18. Chapter 42A of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure contains additional information on community supervision. Typically, an offender on community supervision must report to their probation officer at least once a month.
There are also federal probation, for federal criminal offenses like racketeering and juvenile probation, and for acts of juvenile delinquency, such as theft by a minor. In Texas, informal probation involves following specific rules set by the court. Informal probation is also known as non-supervised probation or summary probation, where the court supervises the offender. Terms of informal probation typically include completing a certain number of community service hours and not committing a new offense during the term of probation.
Adult Conditions of Probation
An offender’s term of probation depends on the crime they committed. This may be months, if the defendant committed a misdemeanor, or years, if the defendant committed a felony. A county probation department, which will supervise an offender sentenced to formal probation for a state offense, is called a Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD). A CSCD may offer a variety of programs to rehabilitate offenders. For example, Tarrant County CSCD offers a domestic violence intervention program, specialized sex offender supervision, and a veterans court diversion program.
Requirements for Adult Probation
In most cases, an offender on community supervision must pay the cost of probation. They often have to complete a task, such as finish a certain number of hours of community service. They may have to pay restitution, or funds to compensate the victim of their offense for damages. In addition, the offender may be required to attend a substance abuse or mental health counseling treatment program. An offender who is being closely tracked may need to remain under house arrest or agree to electronic monitoring with an ankle monitor.
Leaving the County or State
Each offender’s requirements are unique, so a person on probation should consult their probation officer as to whether they are allowed to leave their county or the state of Texas. That being said, there are general rules that an offender can look up on their CSCD’s website. For example, in Comal County, an offender must remain within the county unless their probation officer gives them written permission to leave.
Unless otherwise directed, an offender is generally permitted limited travel in their county of residence and surrounding counties. An offender who is to be out of their county for over 24 hours must secure a travel permit in addition to the written permission of their probation officer. An offender who wants to leave Texas must obtain an out-of-state travel permit from their probation officer. All travel outside the U.S. requires the approval of the offender’s sentencing judge. An offender who leaves Texas without written permission will be considered a fugitive.
Probation Revocation Hearings
An offender who violates the terms of their probation may be sentenced to serve the remainder of the maximum term of their prison sentence. The court decides whether the defendant violated probation by holding a violation of probation (VOP) hearing. Probation violations include committing a new offense while on probation; testing positive for drugs or alcohol if the offender is required not to use substances; not paying restitution to the victim; and not securing employment within a specified time period.
The standard for proof for a VOP hearing is a preponderance of the evidence. This is much lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard in an adult criminal case. A defendant is guaranteed a right to a defense attorney in a VOP hearing.
Deported Individuals and Texas Probation
An offender who has been deported is expected to complete the terms of their probation. The offender is required not to return to the U.S. illegally. They must report by mail every month. They must provide verification of income. If the offender returns to the U.S., they must report to their CSCD within 10 days of re-entry.
Early Termination of Probation
The court may consider an offender for early release from probation if the offender has satisfactorily completed one-third of their original probationary period, or two years of probation. To be eligible, an offender must have paid all fines, court costs and restitution in full. They must have their probation supervision fees up to date and have completed all their programs, such as substance abuse counseling. It is not likely that the court will consider an offender for release from probation if the offender has committed a probation violation during community supervision.
Transferring Probation to Another County
An offender who relocates to a new county will normally have their probation transferred to that county. Their CSCD will prepare a transfer packet and mail it to their new CSCD. After the new county receives the transfer packet, it will mail the offender a letter to the address the offender provided to their former CSCD.
The letter will advise the offender of their appointment time with their new supervision officer and the address to report to in the receiving county. If the offender does not hear from the receiving county within 60 days, they must contact the Indirect Officer at the CSCD in their receiving county. It is a violation of an offender’s probation not to report at least monthly to the CSCD that is currently supervising them.
More About Juvenile Probation
A juvenile may be placed on probation for unlawful behavior for a period that does not run past their 18th birthday. Juvenile probation supervision is implemented in partnership with the juvenile’s family. This ensures the success of the program and promotes long-term behavioral change. Contacts during supervision vary from multiple times a week to monthly, depending on the juvenile’s specific needs, involvement with community resources and level of cooperation.
Rights for Offenders on Probation
In Texas, an offender on probation for a misdemeanor may serve on a jury. They may hold public office and vote. They may own firearms, with the exception of a person on probation for a domestic violence offense. The rules for an offender on probation for a felony conviction are more complicated. They depend on whether an offender is on deferred felony probation, or regular or shock probation.
Deferred probation involves not finding the defendant guilty and putting the case on hold while the offender serves the term of probation. Shock probation involves the judge retaining jurisdiction over the defendant for 180 days from the date the jail time actually begins. A offender on felony probation should ask their attorney and probation officer what rights they have and when they may exercise them. If the offender acts outside the scope of their rights, they could incur a probation violation.
- Caldwell, Comal and Hays Counties, Community Supervision and Corrections Department: Probation Information
- Tarrant County, Texas: Community Supervision and Corrections Department
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: Chapter 42A, Community Supervision
- Tarrant County, Texas: Community Probation Services
- The Palo Pinto County Community Supervision and Corrections Department: If Transferring to Another Texas County
- Brazos County, Community Supervision and Corrections Department: Shock Community Supervision
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.