My previous probation officer allowed me to report by phone. What do I do if my new PO sees this as a violation, even though I complied with all of the terms of my probation?
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UPDATED: Feb 2, 2020
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Issues concering reporting to a new probabtion officer (PO) are more common than you might think. Your first step is to start reporting as your new probation officer wants you to. This will demonstrate that you are actively trying to stay in compliance. To deal with the past phone reporting issues, you should consult with a defense lawyer that specializes in criminal law. A criminal lawyer can help you develop evidence of your past phone reports with your previous probation officer and can subpoena your old probation officer to appear at any contested hearings.
Gathering Proof of Compliance with your Probation Officer
It’s important to make sure that you maintain proof of all of your required appointments and payments. If for some reason your probation officer refuses to provide you verification of either, use verifiable methods of payment and send your probation officer a certified letter each month verifying compliance with your reporting requirements. This is especially critical when you have a probation officer that has approved relaxed “oral” or phone reports.
As noted, poor recordkeeping can cause problems when a new probation officer wants to violate your probation. The problem is that “relaxed” probation officers often don’t record those “oral reports” in your file, so the record looks to others like you have had no contact with the probation officer since your conviction. A good criminal lawyer may be able to help you recreate or find notes in your file to verify your phone reports.
Reviewing Your Probation File
Many states will allow your lawyer to subpoena or inspect your probation file for these details. For example, your new probation officer may just be looking at your physical file, but not at notes your old probation officer made on the screen in your electronic file, or vice versa. If your file shows that you paid your probation fees as ordered on a monthly basis, those payments are also evidence that you were in contact with your prior probation officer. It’s unlikely that you were trying to abscond while making your payments. Finally, if you have to go to a final hearing before the judge, your lawyer can subpoena your old probation officer to the hearing to verify that you were authorized to do phone reporting.
An extreme, but possible, solution is to ask your lawyer to subpoena your probation officer’s phone records for a couple of the months in question. This works best if you used a cell phone. It won’t prove that your old probation officer let you phone in your “reports,” but it will at least verify that you were consistently calling in to the probation department. Your criminal lawyer should also investigate whether your probation department records all phone calls as a matter of policy. If they do record phone conversations between probationers and PO’s you should request copies of any phone calls.
Avoiding Revocation While on Probation
It’s frustrating to get caught between the different reporting requirements of a relaxed probation officer and a strict PO. However, doing nothing will generally only cause you more problems. Complying with the requests of the new officer and being proactive in developing evidence to support your case will help you avoid the severe consequences of revocation. Going forward, good records to verify phone reporting will help you prevent any issues due to poor recordkeeping by a relaxed probation officer.