It is a common practice for probation officers (“PO’s”) in Collin County to directly request from probationers “voluntary sanctions” or “amended conditions of community supervision” which have the affect of changing the terms of probation.
You have the right to say no to any voluntary sanction the PO requests.
PO’s have a hard job. They deal with very large case-loads and most of them sincerely believe they are helping. “Voluntary sanctions” are a way to short-cut the revocation process which can sometimes actually be to the probationer’s advantage.
Here’s how it normally works
A person has a probation infraction (such as failing a breath interlock test while starting a car or failing a urinalysis.) The PO could attempt to revoke probation — but this might be a bit severe in light of the infraction or it may fall short of actually being an actual violation.
The PO instead waits until the person arrives for their monthly reporting and confronts (sometimes ambushes) them with the damning evidence. Some PO’s (not all) may make threats and representations that unless the probationer submits to the “voluntary sanctions,” then the matter will be taken to the judge on a revocation where they will surely be punished far more harshly.
Is the Probation Officer’s Practice Fair?
That’s a hard question to answer. Probation officers are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice — though it would clearly seem an argument can be made that getting someone to waive valuable legal rights based on future courtroom consequences comes dangerously close to crossing the line. On the other hand, revocation is not a kind process for the probationer and often a probation officer is in fact saving the probationer time, money, and even jail by requesting “voluntary sanctions.”
Generally speaking, however, a revocation (or adjudication) process involves the Judge, the District Attorney’s office as well as your lawyer. Thus, it is fairly rare for a PO to have all their requests granted by the Court.
What Can Someone Do in this Situation?
Know your rights and don’t allow yourself to be rushed or bullied into making an important decision that affects your probation. In the event you signed up for “voluntary sanctions” or “amended terms of community supervision” and are now regretting having done so — you can try to contact an attorney to see if you can set the sanctions set aside. Setting aside “voluntary sanctions” is legally difficult because the law views it as a contract. One would think, though, that contract principals apply. Threats and coercion, though, can possibly negate someone’s assent to a contract.