Probation grants convicted offenders the opportunity to avoid jail and prison, but the privilege doesn’t come for free. In exchange, probationers are expected to comply with a long list of strict rules and regulations enforced by the Probation Division of the New Jersey judiciary. Many of these rules are the standard conditions that apply to nearly every case. Many of these are very important – but many are also the easiest to accidentally violate.
If you’re found guilty of a probation violation in New Jersey, you could be sent back to jail or prison to serve the maximum sentence for the underlying crime. If you want to stay out of jail and avoid accidentally breaking the rules, it’s critically important to have a good understanding of New Jersey’s standard probation conditions. If you need help with your probation violation or criminal charges, talk to an Atlantic City probation defense lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free consultation on your case.
Drug Possession, Gun Possession, and Other Crimes While on Probation
The U.S. Probation Office for the District of New Jersey sets 16 “standard conditions”, or rules that most probationers must follow. Keep in mind that these conditions represent only the standard, and that every case is different. Your case may have additional conditions attached, or may not use each and every standard condition. If you have any doubts or questions, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for legal guidance.
The 16 conditions generally apply regardless of whether the offender was convicted of an indictable crime (felony) or a disorderly persons (misdemeanor). These conditions are also meant for adult probationers only; juvenile probation has a very different set of rules.
No Additional Crimes
First and foremost, all probationers absolutely must avoid being charged with additional crimes, no matter how minor. Committing another crime can end your probation and send you back to jail, but you can also face the penalties for the new crime on top of that. Committing another crime while on probation can be considered repeat offending, known as recidivism, and can make sentencing harsher.
If you commit another crime while on probation, not only can you be held in custody without bail, you may also become subject to consecutive sentencing. This means you have to complete sentence for the first crime before you can even start serving time for the second offense. This can add up to many years or decades of incarceration.
No Drug Possession
Everyone on probation must also avoid possession of any controlled substances. This includes possession of prescription drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed physician. Drug possession is already a crime, so this condition is a double reminder not to have drugs. Because this is an independent crime you can also be charged with drug possession offenses.
You also cannot buy or possess any drug paraphernalia. This means no bongs, pipes, needles, or even baggies. With or without drug residue, these may be considered paraphernalia. This is also a separate crime you could face.
You cannot distribute any controlled substances, either. This criminal charge is more serious than simple possession, and includes drug dealing, drug distribution, drug manufacturing, and possession with the intent to deliver/distribute (also known as PWID).
No Gun Possession
If you were convicted of a high-level crime, such as theft (larceny), you cannot own a gun or firearm of any sort. Our defense attorneys are prepared to help clients charged with weapons crimes. Getting a license to carry a gun in New Jersey is difficult, meaning gun possession is often illegal in the first place. Felons (anyone convicted of an indictable crime in NJ) cannot legally possess guns, even after probation ends.
You have 72 hours to tell your probation officer (PO) if you get arrested, or if you were even questioned by the police. Lying about it will not stop your probation officer from finding out – it will just make your legal situation worse. Failing to report something like this can be a violation by itself, even if that arrest ends without charges.
Unless you get special permission from the court in advance, you are not permitted to “act as an informer or a special agent of a law enforcement agency.” This means all deals involving working undercover or as an informer must be approved first if you are on probation.
On a similar note, you cannot associate with people who are known to be active criminals. Avoiding these kinds of people will ultimately help ensure your probation goes smoothly. If you want to visit or talk to someone who has been convicted of an indictable crime, you need to get permission from your probation officer first.
You cannot visit places which are known to be associated with drug sales or drug use. This includes abandoned houses where drug users congregate, or buildings where drugs are prepared/assembled. Talk to your probation officer and attorney about what specific areas or places to avoid.
You might be required to tell third parties, like employers, about potential risks related to your “criminal record or personal history or characteristics.” Your probation officer should discuss the details of this and other requirements with you, but ask an attorney if you are confused.
Checking In, Leaving the State, and Home Visits from Your Probation Officer
Many of the conditions dealing with travel and your home location do not deal with other crimes. Since you are on probation, you have limited rights to travel and privacy as part of the terms of probation. Many of these rules may make things that are usually legal a probation violation instead, such as:
Moving and Traveling
If you move, you have 72 hours to tell your probation officer about your new address. This includes your home address and your work address. These rules are in place to ensure that your probation officer can always find you when they need to. They also ensure that if the police do need to re-arrest you or contact you about an alleged violation, they know where you will be.
Unless you get special permission from your probation officer or the court, you are not allowed to leave the state of New Jersey. You need to make any request to leave the state at least two weeks ahead of time. Even if you’re just driving across the border to visit family for the day, you need permission. This is one of the biggest restrictions on your freedom – but if you were in jail you wouldn’t be able to leave the building, let alone the state.
You won’t be allowed to leave New Jersey during the first two months of your probation, and most requests to leave will be denied until that period is over. Unless you’re traveling for work and get prior approval from your probation officer, all travel must wait.
Check-Ins and Searches
You must check in with your probation officer whenever you’re ordered to do so by the court. This check-in schedule may include in-person check-ins, phone check-ins, or even visits to your home. You also have to write a monthly report (which must be truthful) at some point during the first five days of the month. Work with your probation officer and lawyer on how and when to do this.
Your probation officer may visit you anywhere, at any time, unannounced. This includes your home and your workplace. Probation is, at its core, supervised freedom. The possibility of surprise is one tool the government uses to ensure you’re following the terms of your probation, so be prepared. This also means the probation officer can come to your home, and will likely be allowed to enter without a search warrant.
If your probation officer finds contraband, such as drugs or weapons, he or she can confiscate the item(s). You might also be charged with a crime and a probation violation for these items. Though your PO can enter your home, he can only confiscate items which are in plain view. That means he or she cannot move items around or dig through your possessions without a search warrant.
If you visit your PO at their office, you may be searched or asked to turn out the contents of your bag for officer safety. People have been arrested and issued probation violations for showing up to a meeting with their parole officer while carrying drugs or guns, so do not make that mistake.
If your probation officer asks you a question, answer honestly. If the probation officer tells you to follow a certain rule, obey what he or she says. However, if you’re ordered to share something, do something, or refrain from doing something that seems to violate your constitutional rights, contact an attorney immediately.
Probation is still limited freedom. This means you may face certain restrictions, including:
- You must refrain from “excessive” use of alcohol. One or two drinks might be alright, but be sure to talk to your probation officer first so that you don’t accidentally break the rules. If your crime involved alcohol or drunkenness, you may have more strict terms of probation banning alcohol altogether.
- You must keep up with your child support payments, alimony payments, and any other means of support for your relatives or dependents. This is something you may already be legally required to do, but this rule helps enforce this further. Keep in mind that failure to pay court-ordered alimony or child support can lead to its own additional penalties.
- You must be either employed, actively looking for a job, or in the process of training or earning a degree or G.E.D. In short, you need to be productive with your time to stay out of jail.
Contact an Atlantic City Criminal Attorney Today
If you’ve been charged with a crime in New Jersey, or have been accused of violating probation, you need an experienced drug possession defense attorneys to protect your legal rights and advocate in your defense. For a free, private consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956. Se habla español.