Probation is not an 'easy' sentence, part II

In our last post, we discussed how heavy of a sentence probation can be. Though a person on probation has more freedom than those behind bars, this form of criminal sentence can impose a heavy, expensive burden, and result in the defendant being sent to jail anyway, sometimes for months, at a judge’s discretion.

That is what happened to the woman we talked about in our previous post. We will now pick up with her story after being sentenced to probation for a first-time DUI conviction, based on a New York Times article.

As a result of having her driver’s license suspended, the woman lost her job, but was able to find a new, lower-paying job. She completed alcohol counseling, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and met with her probation officer as ordered. Everything seemed fine, more or less.

Then the woman’s apartment became infested with mice. She made arrangements to move into another unit in her building and wrote the judge monitoring her case to inform him she was moving “just around the corner from where I am now.”

Then the woman ended up not moving apartments after all. But the judge rejected the request, and issued a summons to a probation violation hearing. It took more than three months and five hearings to clear up the misunderstanding.

Later, when the woman lost track of AA attendance slips, her probation officer reported her to the judge. The judge issued an arrest warrant and set $2,000 bond ahead of time, ensuring the woman could not use a bail bondsman. The woman surrendered a month later. She wound up spending 34 days in a jail notorious for filthy conditions and forcing inmates to wash their underwear in sinks and mop buckets.

Finally, she had the chance to see the judge again, who released her but told her she had a drinking problem and reimposed the DUI conviction. The conviction suspended her license a further six months, though the woman was never informed by the state.

Our point is, probation can be a fairly harsh sentence, depending on the circumstances.

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