Am I Eligible for Probation?
Courts have the power to suspend an individual’s sentence and order probation if the sentence to be suspended is less than fifteen years. However, there are exceptions for which probation is unavailable and this list is rapidly growing as a result of legislative activity. The period of probation or suspension of execution of sentence shall be determined by the court, and the period may be continued, extended, or terminated.
However, in no case shall the maximum period of a defendant guilty of a misdemeanor exceed two years, nor shall the maximum period of a defendant guilty of a felony exceed five years. When the conditions of probation or suspension of sentence are fulfilled, the court shall, by order duly entered on its minutes, discharge the defendant.
When an person is eligible for probation, it is within the judge’s discretion to consider probation as a disposition. When a court chooses grants this, it refers the case to a probation officer who must provide a pre-sentence investigation report before sentencing. If the court grants probation it determines the term within certain proscribed limits. Once released, the probation officer is required to provide the offender with written instructions regarding the conditions and consequences of violations.
Probation automatically terminates upon the successful completion of the term set by the court but can be terminated prior to this date on the recommendation of an officer.
Alabama law requires the court to conduct a revocation hearing when an individual has allegedly violated the conditions of probation. Due process requires that the judge issue a written order detailing the violation and reasons for revoking the probation. A probationer has a right to present evidence and call witnesses and is entitled to bring counsel to a hearing. Where a probationer is indigent, counsel is to be appointed if there are substantial reasons that make revocation inappropriate.
Any police officer, or other officer with power of arrest, when requested by the probation officer, may arrest a probationer without a warrant. In case of an arrest without a warrant, the arresting officer shall have a written statement by the probation officer setting forth that the probationer has, in his or her judgment, violated the conditions of probation, and the statement shall be sufficient warrant for the detention of the probationer in the county jail or other appropriate place of detention until the probationer is brought before the court. The officer shall forthwith report the arrest and detention to the court and submit in writing a report showing in what manner the probationer has violated probation.
If the defendant violates any condition of probation or suspension of execution of sentence, the court, after a hearing, may implement one or more of the following options:
a. Continue the existing probation and suspension of execution of sentence.
b. Issue a formal or informal warning to the probationer that further violations may, subject to paragraph f., result in revocation of probation or suspension of execution of sentence.
c. Conduct a formal or informal conference with the probationer to reemphasize the necessity of compliance with the conditions of probation.
d. Modify the conditions of probation or suspension of execution of sentence, which conditions may include the addition of short periods of confinement, not to exceed 90 days incarceration in a county jail, a facility of the Department of Corrections, or work release type facility, if available.
e. Revoke the probation or suspension of execution of sentence for a defendant who is not an eligible offender as defined herein. If the court revokes probation, it may, after a hearing, impose the sentence that was suspended at the original hearing or any lesser sentence.
The Alabama Criminal Code section on this topic can be found here, in the Alabama Code.