After a defendant is convicted of a crime, Minnesota statutes allow the court to issue a stay of the sentence and place the defendant on probation. State law defines probation as a sanction ordered by the court to be imposed on a criminal offender for a period of supervision. Courts impose probation as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, imprisonment or other sanctions. Probation is intended to deter further criminal behavior, punish convicted individuals, give them the opportunity for rehabilitation, and provide them with time to pay restitution to victims and their communities. Additionally, courts may order that probation be supervised by the Department of Corrections, county probation offices, or community corrections agencies.
Minnesota has high probation rates as compared with the rest of the country. According to the National Institute of Corrections, Minnesota (based on 2013 data) has a probation rate that is 65% higher than the national average number of probationers, and has the 6th highest probation rate among the fifty states. According to the Minnesota legislature, the state has chosen a correctional policy that favors lower incarceration rates and a higher probation caseload, thus resulting in lower overall correctional spending. In fact, the state has close to nine offenders on probation or parole per incarcerated offender, which is the highest in the nation. Because of the high probation caseload, prosecution for probation violations is also prevalent in Minnesota courts. In fact, Minnesota’s probation revocation rate is 16%, while the nationwide rate in which probationers are reincarcerated due to revocation is at 5.4% according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Courts routinely impose a wide range of probation conditions, and Minnesota law does not provide any general limitations to the conditions that a court is permitted to set. Some conditions may include community service, payment of restitution to victims, drug rehabilitation or mental health treatment, or electronic monitoring. The state may also establish correctional fees that probationers must pay as long as those fees are related to the cost of correctional services the ability of a probationer to pay. The potential length of a probation term is set forth by statute:
- Up to four years for felonies, or up to the maximum prison term that could be imposed, whichever is longer;
- Up to six years for certain felony criminal vehicular offenses or gross misdemeanor Driving While Impaired (DWI);
- Up to two years for certain domestic assault-related misdemeanors and other gross misdemeanors aside from DWI; and
- Up to a year for all other misdemeanors.
Revocation of Probation
A prosecutor or a probation officer may initiate a probation revocation proceeding if it becomes apparent that a probationer has violated any condition of probation or has committed a new criminal offense. If the court finds that a probation violation occurred, and the violation was intentional or inexcusable, then it may revoke the grant of probation. Once probation is revoked, the court may impose a jail or prison sentence. It may also decide to establish new or amended probation conditions.
If a probation officer suspects that a violation has occurred, he or she will write a report to the court detailing probable cause for the violation. The court will then likely set a hearing where the probationer is given the opportunity to admit or deny the alleged probation violation. If the violation is admitted, then the court will ask about any mitigating circumstances that may help the judge determine the right sanction. If the violation is denied, then the court will hold an evidentiary hearing where the prosecution has to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the violation took place. Probationers should seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney if they find themselves in the middle of probation violation proceedings since revocation of probation is a serious matter that may result in jail or prison time.
Expert representation can help you navigate the serious issues involved if you have been accused of violating your probation. The Kans Law Firm, LLC, can provide you with a seasoned advocate who will fight to keep you out of jail or prison. Call us now for a free initial consultation at (952) 835-6314.