When Is Probation Imposed as Part of a Sentence for a Drug-Related Charge?

Interviewer: When it comes to probation, who decides whether the probation is supervised or unsupervised? Could someone receive probation with a misdemeanor conviction?

The Judge Imposes Probation with Input from Both the Prosecutor and the Defense Attorney

Court: Yes, probation is very common with misdemeanor charges and even with felony charges. It usually is imposed as an alternative to jail. Ultimately the person that decides this is the judge; the judge has the full power to do whatever he or she thinks is, whatever in his or her judgment whatever they want to do is what happens.

That being, said the defense attorney and the prosecutor will both have an opportunity to offer their recommendations to the judge. In most cases I would say that there is some agreement reached between the defense attorney and the prosecutor as to what the sentencing recommendation is going to be. Then they’ll give that recommendation as a joint recommendation to the judge.

The judge doesn’t have to follow that recommendation but many times they do. If you have a good recommendation from the prosecutor and the defense attorney, the judge is likely going to follow it.

Interviewer: Is there a chance to get unsupervised probation in a misdemeanor case?

Unsupervised Probation Is imposed Only in Less Serious Offenses; it Is More Likely to Receive Supervised Probation for a Drug-Related Conviction

Court: Yes, a lot of times in less serious drug cases, unsupervised probation is possible. It’s less common with other crimes and the reason that judges like to have supervised probation is because it requires you to have random drug tests. They feel like they can foretell abuse problems. With a drug case it’s more likely that you are going to get supervised probation but it is possible that you happen to get unsupervised probation.

First Offenders Are Often Afforded Leniency

Interviewer: Do you think there is any leniency for first time offenders?

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Court: Absolutely. What can happen is with a first time offender you’re going to have a good chance of the judge just giving you the minimum sentence. With first time offenders I’d say that it’s much less likely that you’re going to have to do jail time and most less likely that you’ll have to pay a significant fine.

With any drug case, there is almost always going to be some substance abuse treatment requirement that the judge gives you. You probably are looking at supervised probation like I mentioned earlier. There are definitely a lot of advantages when you having first time charges as opposed to somebody who is appearing in the court two, three, four, or five times in front of the same judge.

Interviewer: What about with minors with drug charges, how are those handled?

Court: I don’t practice juvenile law so I don’t want to go out too far on a limb talking about it but with juveniles there is even more leniency from what I understand.

It will work the same way as far as whether or not someone is guilty. When you’re going to juvenile court the idea is for judges to get kids who are going down the wrong path and to turn them around and get them on the right path. There is even more emphasis on treatment and fixing problems and preventing future problems. The goal is to take care of issues in a reasonable way now so you don’t have issues down the road.

Interviewer: Can a 17 year-old get tried as an adult for drug charges?

Court: It could happen but it’s definitely less likely. When you have a juvenile tried as an adult it’s generally for very serious crimes, offenses like manslaughter and murder.

By Court Koehler

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