What is shock probation?
In the simplest terms, shock probation is a way to convert a prison sentence to probation. Shock probation or shock “community supervision” is an alternate type of sentencing or early-release program in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Shock probation allows a judge to send a defendant to prison or jail for a short period of time, and after that stint is served, put the defendant on probation. The hope is that serving a brief time behind bars will “shock” the defendant into resuming life as a law-abiding citizen.
Shock probation was designed to address overcrowding issues in jails and reward certain defendants for good behavior. It can be a good option for defendants who are unlikely to be repeat offenders. Shock probation is found here in Article 42A.202 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (previously it was in Article 42.12 Section 6(a)).
Who is eligible for shock probation?
A defendant who was eligible for probation and received a sentence of 10 years or less may apply for shock probation. The application and decision of the court must occur before the individual has been in custody for six months. The trial court loses jurisdiction after six months.
Additionally, a person is only eligible:
- if a judge believes the defendant would not benefit from further imprisonment,
- the defendant is otherwise eligible for probation,
- and the defendant has not been previously incarcerated for a felony.
A judge will review jail records to ensure the defendant did not have any disciplinary problems while in jail. Shock probation is ideal for defendants who have little to no risk of becoming a repeat offender. Again, the theory is that by giving the defendant a brief taste of jail or prison, he or she will be “shocked” into leading a non-criminal lifestyle.
A requirement of shock probation is that the defendant is eligible for probation. These offenses are not eligible for probation: here.
How is a defendant put on shock probation?
Shock probation is granted by the judge who originally sentenced the defendant to jail time – and it must be within 180 days of the original sentencing. The defendant, prosecutors, or judge can make a motion to place the defendant on shock probation. If the motion is made by the defense, it must be made in writing.
If granted, the defendant is released from jail after the temporary period is served, and put on regular probation. Again, whoever applies for shock probation, must do so within six months of sentencing.
A judge can deny a request for shock probation without holding a hearing. A judge may not, however, grant shock probation without a hearing. At the hearing, the defendant and attorney for the state must be given an opportunity to present evidence in support or opposition of the request.
What happens if conditions of shock probation are violated?
If a defendant violates any condition of shock probation, a hearing is held to determine if their probation should be revoked. If revoked, the court reinstates the originally imposed sentence, and the defendant returns to prison.
For example, let’s say a defendant was sentenced to five years in jail. The judge grants shock probation after the defendant has served four months in jail, and the defendant is released and placed on probation for five years. While on probation, the defendant fails to meet a condition of his probation, like failing a drug test or failing to check in with his probation officer. It is likely that a motion to revoke probation will be filed, and the defendant will be arrested and return to court. After a hearing, if the defendant’s probation is revoked, he or she will be sent back to jail to serve the remainder of the original 5 year imprisonment. The defendant will receive credit for time-served in jail for the offense for which he was put on shock probation.
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