Most people would much rather serve a period of supervised probation than go to jail for any length of time – but probation isn’t without its challenges and risks.
Probation requirements vary greatly from situation to situation, so the restrictions you are under and the amount of supervision you’re subjected to during that time may be unique. In any probation situation, however, you will have times you need to meet with your probation officer and things that you’re expected to report – such as changes in your address, a job loss and any subsequent arrests. If you fail to make your mandatory meetings or promptly report changes in your situation as required, you can end up violating probation.
What happens, then, if you’re unable to reach your probation officer in the appropriate time frame? This is exactly the situation that can make someone very anxious (especially when they’re trying to stay out of jail).
Don’t panic – but do keep very good records
The reality is that there are staffing shortages everywhere, and that includes within the entire judicial system. Probation officers often have more probationers than they can easily handle, and they also have to field calls and emails from prosecutors, defense attorneys, mental health professionals involved in cases and more.
That means that your probation officer probably isn’t ignoring you, just busy. With that in mind, you still need to protect yourself from any alleged violations. That means:
- Be polite in all of your attempts. Regardless of the method of contact, it does you no good to lose your temper and say something that could be taken as a threat – or even just to antagonize the probation officer.
- Attempt all known channels. If you leave a phone message, don’t hesitate to send a follow-up email (and vice-versa). Be clear about why you are calling and what you need from the probation officer so that there’s no question about the reason for the contact.
- Keep a written journal of calls and attempted office visits. Write down the day, time and any important details, like whether you left a note under the office door or with a receptionist.
If you do end up in court because the probation officer says they never heard from you, having a record of your attempts to do what was required is only to your advantage – and it could be critical for your defense.