It is late on a fall Boston night. As your eyeballs begin their dance of slumber, a loud banging on the door shatters the peaceful quiet and wakes you up with a jolt. The baby is crying and the elderly peek out their doorway in fear.
Who can it be? A violent group of thugs? Are you dreaming you are in another country where tyranny rules?
No…it’s just the police and your friendly neighborhood probation officer.
You know… our domestic peace keepers.
Violent crimes such as homicide and shootings are up in number this year. This has given law enforcement officials a new sense of urgency to respond aggressively and visibly.
As regular readers to this daily blog should know, one loses certain rights and protections when on probation. First of all, unless patently unreasonable, your probation officer’s wish is your command. It begins with the probation conditions mandated by the court and ends where probation thinks it should end. Got a problem with that? Try refusing their “suggestions” and find out how long you remain free.
Better yet, just get arrested. No, I did not say you necessarily had to commit a crime…just anger the wrong person or be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Being arrested is a violation of probation. Violating probation usually means becoming an involuntary guest of the Commonwealth.
But don’t worry…you are still presumed innocent with regard to the new charges. You may even win down the road at trial. The only problem is that you will be awaiting trial behind bars because you got arrested.
Yes, on that case in which you are presumed innocent and may well be acquitted for.
So, it should not be a surprise when law enforcement decides to use the probation department to turn up the heat on its probationers when new arrests are needed and more troublesome folks need to be taken off the street.
Probation officers have revived a former tactic of showing up unexpectedly, late at night, at the homes of the men and women they supervise. Law enforcement officials believe probationers will be less inclined to violate the terms of their probation – and perhaps commit crimes – if they know probation officers could show up at any point and see that they violated a curfew or find them in possession of drugs or weapons.
So, do not be surprised when, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., there is a rather insistent knock on the door. Your new visitors may well be your probation officer, surrounded by gang unit officers for protection.
Why the gang unit officers? Well, probation officers cannot carry guns. The officers can. On the other hand, the police officers cannot insist on entering your home without a warrant.
Probation officers can.
A match made in law enforcement heaven.
Many criminal defendants feel that it is time to celebrate when their attorneys come return from a conference with the prosecutor or judge with the news, “She’s willing to give you probation!”
Yes, I know that this news means that you are not going to jail today.
Emphasis on the word “today”.
You see, as we have discussed many times in this blog, being on probation is like giving up part of your soul, or at least freedom, for however long you are on probation.
Don’t get me wrong…if you have a case where you are looking at a long prison sentence and your case is likely to be lost at trial, it is a rather attractive option. But, it does not mean that you are free and clear.
Once on probation, what stands between you and incarceration is the happiness of the probation officer. It does make sense when you think about it…to a degree. After all, what you are doing is admitting your guilt and, rather than putting you in the “Big House”, you allowed to continue your regular life…more or less.
You may well have a curfew. You may have to stay at home when not at work. You may have to stay away from certain places. You will have to check in with your probation officer and you will have to pay a monthly fee for the privilege.
These are the commonplace probationary terms. There are often many others. Now, to keep you on the “straight and narrow”, it will include potential home visits at all hours of the night.
So, if you have a criminal case, you want to have an attorney who has experience with the realities of probation. It is the only way he or she can advise you on accepting it as the resolution to your case.
Here is a hint though…don’t accept it if you are not prepared to really do it. One misstep could mean trading in your surprise night time visits for a nice interrupted sleep in a prison cell.
Should you wish to discuss such a criminal matter with me, please feel free to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.
For the original story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/yourtown/boston/roxbury/articles/2010/10/16/officers_surprise_visits_keep_pressure_on_probationers/?page=full