Community Service and Probation

Interviewer: Does probation automatically include community service?

Community Service Is Usually Imposed in Lieu of a Jail Sentence

Attorney Koehler: It varies on a case by case basis.  Community service, in practicality, most often goes along with probation.  This is because when you see community service imposed it’s in lieu of jail time.  For instance, in Utah, your first time DUI carries a two day mandatory minimum jail time with it.  What that means is that the judge doesn’t have any choice.  He has to sentence you to at least two days jail on a first time DUI conviction.  But, what he can do is order community service instead of jail time.

Community Service Is Imposed in Addition to Probation and Is Not Commonly a Condition of the Probation

Typically, with a first time DUI you’ll see 48 hours of community service ordered instead of the jail time.  It’s not necessarily a condition of the probation, but just because of the nature of the crimes and the types of defendants that you see that enter probation, a lot of times community service is part of that, too.  A lot of them will also have community service requirements.

If Employment Requires Relocation, Will That Violate Your Probation?

Interviewer: Let’s say I was on probation but I got a new job and I needed to move, maybe to another city or maybe another state.  What should I do about my probation?

To Assist You, the Attorney Will Petition the Judge to Allow the Relocation

Attorney Koehler: Sometimes it can be okay and you can transfer the probation to a different state.  It would be something that the judge would have to allow.  You’d have to go through the legal process of asking the judge for that.  As long it’s in the same state it’s usually not a problem, as long as there’s not a geographical restriction that goes along with the probation.

But if you get a job and most of the time the court and the judge is going to be happy about it and you can usually manage to get that probation transferred to the state that you’re going to.  It can be a problem but usually it’s not a big deal.

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A Probation Case History

Interviewer: Could you tell me a story of one of your favorite victories about a memorable case?

It Is Important for the Attorney to Have Good Communication with Both the Prosecutor and the Probation Officer

Attorney Koehler:  So most of the time with probation violations, the way to be successful with a probation violation as a lawyer is to make sure that you have really good communication with the probation officer and the prosecutor.  I had a client, last year, that had violated probation by just completely failing to show up to the appointment for his probation, and he moved without telling the probation officer, and he also changed his job, and he hadn’t told his probation officer any of this.  He was arrested and put in jail on violation of probation, and he contacted me.

In looking through the case, what we figured out was that his probation officer had actually changed.  They had changed his probation officer and then somebody hadn’t documented it the right way.  If we had gone in there and argued and whined about it to the judge, I’m sure that the judge wouldn’t have listened to us.  I don’t think it would have worked too well.

What I was able to do was just have a heart-to-heart with the prosecutor.  I got him to contact the probation officer and it turns out that this man’s story was absolutely true, that they had switched probation officers on him and they hadn’t filed it the right way with their office, and so it turns out that he wasn’t in violation of probation after all, so we managed to get him out of jail and back on with his life without any consequences.

That’s usually one of the worst case scenarios, sort of a mix up where you’re not actually doing anything wrong, but you get arrested because they think you’re doing something wrong.

Then, on the other hand, being able to get out of it without any adverse consequences, of course, he had to spend a little time in jail, so that’s no fun, but all in all we did pretty well for him.

Attorneys Generally Have More Success When They Approach Prosecutors and Probation Officers with Courtesy and Respect

What you want is you want a lawyer that can catch more bees with honey, so to speak.  Probation officers and dealing with prosecutors is not the kind of thing where you want the aggressive tiger that’s going to come in yelling at everybody and kick and scream and make everybody angry and then refuse to work them.

That’s kind of my style as an attorney in general, and especially when it comes to probation officers and probation violations.  I think it’s much better to try and get a one-on-one with the prosecutor and try and come to an agreement that can benefit your client that way instead of trying to browbeat them into doing something that they can’t do, which is just forget about the violation.

Interviewer: What counties and areas do you cover?

Attorney Koehler: We work in Salt Lake County, Utah County, Davis County, Tooele, Wasatch County, Summit County, Weber County, pretty much all of the northern counties in Utah, anywhere in Northern Utah.

We have also worked quite a few times in the southern counties around St. George and Monticello.  We don’t have as many cases down there, but if you have a problem, then if you call us up, then we travel to you.  Most cases we do are in Northern Utah, but we work pretty much throughout Utah.

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