I can’t pay my probation costs….Will I get violated?

Attorney Peter D Aiken
Criminal Defense
Sarasota, Florida

As a criminal defense lawyer in Ft. Myers and Sarasota, I get this question all the time. In America, people are not supposed to be imprisoned for their debts. When a person pleads guilty or no contest in a criminal case, the Courts impose “Court Costs”, sometimes, costs of prosecution, and “costs of supervision” if the person is placed on probation. If it was a petit theft or grand theft case, the Court may also impose restitution to the “victim”.

If the case involved damage to property for malicious mischief or involved an injury to a victim the court may also order restitution for property or medical bills. Sadly, most people, when they get convicted or placed on probation find it hard to get a decent job.

Who wants to hire a felon or someone on probation?

Paying restitution or court costs is an uphill battle and a struggle for most people. The probation officer, when it gets close to your termination time, will often submit a violation warrant to the judge to put pressure on you to pay your costs and fees.
What I tell my clients is to double up on your monthly payments. That allows you a little grace period if you have a bad month. Also, a lot of times, you can get an early termination of your probation at the half way point, if everything is paid up. Don’t let a few bucks cause you to get violated close to the end of your probation. The Courts are real sticklers when it comes to restitution. Get it paid, and get it paid early.

What if I just don’t have the money?

You have to let your probation office know if you are financially hurting.
Show him your pay stubs.
Show him your debts like rent, utilities and child support.

You have to communicate with the probation people so they don’t think you are willfully not paying. As a criminal defense attorney here in Lee County, we regularly gather this information for client and try in convince the Probation officer of your lack of ability to pay. For it to be a violation, it has to be willful and substantial, and being broke is not a crime. On the other hand, if you spend your money on other things, like rims on your ride, or a vacation, or some other luxury, you can find yourself violated and sitting in the slammer.

The advantage of having a private lawyer instead of the Lee County Public Defender is that as private lawyers, we follow up with clients. If you have the public defender, there is no follow up at all. If you want early termination, good luck trying to get help with the PD.

In life, you get what you pay for.

If you want a motivated lawyer…spring for the bucks and he will get it done.

If you see a violation of probation in your future, call us in Ft. Myers at 239 334 8890. If you live in Sarasota, call the office before you are violated at 941 366 3506