Which Probation Conditions Are Invalid?

If you’ve been put on probation, you’ve been granted some degree of mercy by the state.  Probation is an alternative form of punishment that allows an offender to serve their sentence in society at-large (outside of a correctional facility), but under community supervision.  When serving probation, an offender must consistently report to certain probation officers and must adhere to various conditions of probate – as prescribed by the court.

Still, despite the fact that probation is seen as a “softer” form of sentencing an offender, the various conditions placed on an offender can sometimes be excessively burdensome and unfair.  In fact, probation conditions are so thoroughly unreasonable or burdensome that it can be very difficult for an offender to avoid violating such conditions!

If you find yourself having violated a condition of your Florida probation – or if you simply find one or more of your probation conditions unreasonable, excessively burdensome, or otherwise unfair – then you may be able to have such condition rendered invalid, though you’ll need the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney in order to do so.

Unreasonable Conditions of Probation

The law describing the terms and conditions of probation is set out in Chapter 948.03 of the Florida Statutes.  Florida probation courts have wide discretion to specify probation conditions, and a number of highly-restrictive probation conditions are seen – statutorily – as standard practice, and therefore de facto reasonable.

These conditions include but are not limited to unannounced probation officer visits, reasonable efforts to obtain or remain in regular employment, location limitations, restitution payments to the offender’s victims, limitations on associating with other persons engaged in criminal activities, random drug testing (if the offender was convicted of a drug-related crime), and more.

The probation court is free to burden an offender with additional special conditions of probation, above and beyond the preceding “standard” conditions, but such conditions must be reasonable.

What constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable condition is largely a subjective matter, but fundamentally, the probation court must take into account an offender’s needs and the condition must be reasonably related to the offense committed.  The probation condition cannot be vague, arbitrary, or malicious for its own sake.

Confused?  Let’s consider an example.

Suppose that you are given probation for assault and battery.  The judge orders a special probation condition, however.  The condition limits your internet access to only a few hours each day.  This probation condition is likely to be considered unreasonable and therefore invalid.

It bears no reasonable relation to the offense committed (assault and battery).  In fact, the condition is so absurd and arbitrary that one might effectively argue that the judge was simply being vindictive.

Overly vague conditions may also be rendered invalid.

Suppose that you are given probation for assault and battery, as in the above example.  The battery took place at night.  One of the probation conditions is a curfew, and you are required to adhere to a “nighttime” curfew.

It could be argued that such curfew bears a reasonable relation to the offense committed, as the offense was itself committed at night (perhaps there are nighttime activities that increase the risk of violence, such as bars/clubs being open).

Suppose, however, that the curfew does not indicate a specific time.  It simply requires that you return to your home by “nighttime.”  This condition is sufficiently vague as to be unreasonable and invalid.  The curfew is not specific enough – it is open to interpretation.

If you were to violate the curfew condition, it could be argued that you did not know what time you were supposed to return.

It is not easy to argue for the invalidity of a probation condition, but it is possible in some cases.  If you have violated probation, or are currently dealing with what you believe are unreasonable or unfair probation conditions, call (941) 900-3100 as soon as possible to speak with experienced Bradenton probation violation attorneys at the Fowler Law Group today.

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