Should I Choose Jail Instead of Probation?

In some criminal cases, defendants are able to get probation as an alternative to incarceration. Probation, known as “community supervision” in Texas, is a period of court-ordered supervision that allows a person to stay within their community while they serve out their sentence. The terms of a person’s community supervision can vary. In some cases, a person who is on community supervision may be required to abide by a curfew, enroll in and attend certain classes, or live in a specific location. For most people, community supervision is a welcomed alternative to jail.

Though, this does raise a question: Can a Texas defendant choose jail over community supervision? In general, the answer to the question is ‘yes’. If an accused person negotiates an outcome with the prosecutor through their lawyer, the parties can usually agree upon a jail sentence, as opposed to community supervision. If a defendant elects to proceed to trial, that person may choose whether they will be sentenced by the judge or by the jury if convicted. However, following a Guilty verdict, the defendant loses the ability to negotiate the outcome. At that point the defendant must request jail and hope that the judge (or jury) depending upon whom the defendant elected to sentence him or her, agrees with the request. Following a trial, the path to the outcome you desire is uncertain. In fact, there is caselaw in Texas indicating that a judge may disregard a jury’s decision to impose a jail sentence and may place a person on community supervision over their objection and in spite of the decision of the jury. However, there has been an observed trend in Texas of defendants choosing jail over community supervision. According to reporting from the Texas Tribune, there are now many defendants in the state who have selected jail over community supervision.

However, just because people are making this choice does not mean that it is a good option for you. If you are considering opting to go to jail instead of going through community supervision, it is strongly recommended that you first consult with an experienced Collin County probation violation attorney. Your lawyer will be able to review the specific circumstances of your case in order to help you find the best path forward for you and your family.

Why Would Anyone Choose Jail Over Community Supervision?

For many people, this entire question is confusing. Why would a defendant voluntarily choose to go to jail instead of opting for community supervision? On the surface, it does not seem like a choice that makes any sense. However, there are some limited advantages that jail offers over community supervision. Specifically, three key advantages are:

  • Shorter overall punishment: Jail is a finite term, and it can be significantly shorter than the length community supervision. Some defendants prefer this type of arrangement.
  • No ongoing costs: When on community supervision, defendants are generally required to pay ongoing monthly fees.
  • No risk of violation: If a person violates their community supervision, it could be revoked outright. This is a very serious problem, and it could result in a defendant serving a longer jail term than they would have been facing in the first place.

While those ‘cons’ of community supervision are real, it is important to view them in the proper context. Going to jail is serious. Community Supervision allows people to continue their life with relatively little disruption; going to jail, especially for an extended period of time, will inevitably cause major disruptions. Defendants also should understand that going to jail is traumatic. There are adverse emotional and psychological effects that you may not be ready to take on. There are also often serious “collateral consequences” that flow from a final conviction and jail sentence including driver and professional license suspension among a host of others. Do not make a decision to voluntarily accept a jail sentence until you have at least consulted with a qualified and experienced Collin county defense lawyer.

Why You Should Always Be Represented By a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Consider the following scenario: A person was arrested for a DWI in Collin County, Texas. This defendant admits that they were intoxicated while behind the wheel of their vehicle, and they are not interested in community supervision. They are set on pleading guilty and serving out any required jail sentence. Even in this hypothetical example, this person should still be represented by an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. Why? Because sentencing varies dramatically. In Texas, a first-time DWI conviction is punishable by up to 180 days in jail. However, in many cases, defendants serve far less than that, and they may even be able to avoid jail altogether. The above scenario would also likely cause an additional driver license suspension and preclude one from ever sealing their record of conviction from public view.

You should always work with a defense attorney who can help you find the best possible solution given your specific circumstances and desires. Choosing jail over community supervision could make sense in a limited number of cases. However, if you are going that route, you need to be sure that you are not hit with a maximum possible jail sentence. Your criminal defense attorney will make sure that your rights and interests are being fully protected.

Contact Our Collin County Juvenile Defense Attorneys Today

At Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian, our Collin County criminal lawyers are committed to providing top-quality legal services to our clients. No matter your specific situation, we will find you the best solution. If you have questions about community supervision, please call our office today at (972) 369-0577 to request a fully confidential case evaluation. From McKinney, we represent defendants throughout Collin County, TX, including in Plano and Frisco.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : May 24, 2024