What is Probation in Texas? | Fort Worth Criminal Defense

probation in texas

What is Probation in Texas?

Probation in Texas is one of the two forms of “community supervision” authorized by law. Community supervision consists of programs, sanctions, and conditions set forth by a court that a person has to meet as an alternative to jail or prison. Community supervision (formerly called adult probation) may be ordered for misdemeanor or felony offenses and is generally imposed in lieu of a jail or prison sentence.

A person receives probation or is placed on community supervision in Texas after a plea of guilty and a finding of guilt and the person is ordered to comply with the conditions of community supervision instead of receiving a jail or prison sentence.

How long can you be on probation in Texas?

A misdemeanor punishable by jail can be probated for up to two years. A felony can generally be probated for up to ten years.

Early Release from Probation in Texas

A judge may release a person from probation early for most cases at 1/3 time when it is in the best interest of society and the probationer. A review at 1/3 time is discretionary. A review at 1/2 time is mandatory upon request. Even though the review is mandatory upon request, a probationer does not have a right to early termination; it is purely discretionary on the part of the judge to allow someone to be released from probation early.

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Can I get Probation in Texas?

Probation is not available for sentences that are 10 years or longer. While juries are allowed to probate most offenses, judges face limitations on which offenses may and may not be probated. These limitations were set out in Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12 Section 3g and these offenses are known as “3g offenses” in Texas. They are now set out in Article 42A.054 but are still referred to as “3g offenses.”

What are the differences between Deferred Adjudication and Straight Probation?

Deferred adjudication probation

What are the general conditions of probation in Texas?

The judge sets conditions of probation. The most common conditions of probation or deferred adjudication in Texas requires that a probationer:

  • Not violate any other laws
  • Avoid any bad conduct including use of illegal controlled substances
  • Avoid bad people and places.
  • Report as directed by probation office: Generally once a month
  • Be subject to house inspections
  • Maintain a job
  • Support your dependents
  • Advise probation officer of any address or job change
  • Execute a waiver of extradition
  • Submit to drug testing
  • Pay probation supervision fees, Crime Stopper fees, and court costs
  • Complete GED or obtain high school diploma
  • Complete any classes required by probation officer
  • Abide by limitations on travel
  • Abide by a curfew
  • Pay restitution, if any, to crime victim
  • Complete community service
  • Complete a psychological or psychiatric evaluation

In Tarrant County, felony probation officers supervise approximately 130 people in any given month.  Most adult probationers are ordered to report once a month for half hour meetings.  Probationers on more serious offenses might have in-home visits or inspections and field visits by a probation officer.

Can I get early release from probation for a DWI in Texas?

Texas does not allow early release from a DWI in Texas. However, a judge may allow a person to go to non-reporting status after the probationer has completed half their term. The judge may also authorize the early removal of interlock.

How many people are on probation in Texas?

In 2015, there were nearly 400,000 individuals on probation in Texas. More than half of those were on felony probation. Men outnumbered women by over two times. Of a supervised population of 382, 714 as of August 31, 2015, there were 101,657 classified as white, 89,409 classified as hispanic, 51, 499 classified as black, and 3,561 classified as other. (There were 50,191 individuals classified as black in prison on the same date, 47,740 classified as white, 49,427 classified as hispanic, and 788 classified as other.) Most individuals on probation are on probation for DWI or drug offenses.

How much grant funding does a county get for probation?

Using Tarrant County as an example, here is how the grant funding was broken up for the 2016-2017 fiscal year:

Tarrant Sex Offender Caseloads $897,368
Tarrant Substance Abuse Aftercare Caseloads $151,898
Tarrant Treatment Alternative to Incarceration $797,803
Tarrant Mentally Impaired Caseloads (MHI) $317,978
Tarrant Day Treatment Programs $980,875
Tarrant Contract Residential Treatment $132,595
Tarrant S.W.I.F.T. Court $176,952
Tarrant Assessment Unit $465,845
Tarrant High-Risk Caseload $132,938

Probation Revocation and Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 14 of the Texas Constitution protects an accused person against being punished for the same offense twice.

No person, for the same offense, shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or liberty, nor shall a person be again put upon trial for the same offense, after a verdict of not guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction. Tex. Const. art. I, § 14.

When a person violates a condition of probation by committing a new offense, the person is subject to being punished first for the probation violation and second for the new offense. This is not, however, a violation of double jeopardy. The reason for this is the revocation is punishment for the underlying offense while the sentence on the new case is just that: punishment on a separate matter.

Ex parte Tarver

In Tarver, the defendant was found guilty of possession of cocaine and was granted probation for ten years. The following year, the defendant was charged with assault. The State moved to revoke his probation, based on the allegation that he had violated the terms of his probation by committing the assault. The question on appeal was whether a revocation based on the new offense would constitute double jeopardy. The Court of Criminal Appeals determined that although Tarver was twice placed in risk of punishment, the punishment would be for different offenses and therefore double jeopardy did not apply.  Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d 195 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986).

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese