Probation is not cheap. You must pay for the cost of supervision, which you pay monthly. You may also be required to pay drug testing fees if drug-testing is a condition of your probation.
If restitution is required, you may have to make monthly payments to satisfy that condition.
Court costs, or the costs assessed by the court based upon your charges, are typically not a condition of your probation and you should not be violated for failure to pay.
However, cost of supervision, drug testing fees, and restitution are conditions of probation. You may have other monetary conditions as well, such as fines or costs of classes, which are paid separate and apart from other probation fees.
What Happens if You Don’t Pay Your Probation Fees?
If you do not pay your cost of supervision and other probation-relation fees, you will be in arrears. If you have an arrearage, your probation officer may violate you. This probation violation may occur during the course of your probation or right at the end. If violated, you may be taken into custody and held without a bond until you see the division judge who is handling your case. It is there where the judge will decide whether to impose a bond (probation violation bonds are at the judge's discretion unless you qualify under Florida's Anti-Murder Act).
If you have failed to pay restitution, you will be violated. This is a more serious violation than failing to pay cost of supervision or other fees. Restitution is a condition of probation that is imposed to make the alleged victim whole. If you have failed to pay restitution, the court will look to see whether you had the ability to pay but chose not to pay. The burden is on the accused to demonstrate that they did not have the financial ability to make the restitution payments.
If restitution payments are too high and you fear a violation, you may modify your restitution payments.
Many probation violations are financial. However, probation violations can land you in jail and they can ruin your chances of getting early termination.
To avoid probation violations in the future, it is wise to address these matters up front. At the time you go on probation, you may want to ask the judge to reduce the cost of supervision, or even waive the cost of supervision. You also want to make sure that your court costs are not a condition of probation (so you cannot be violated for failure to pay). If restitution is imposed, don't agree to pay a monthly amount that you know you cannot afford.
A little bit of planning on the front end will prevent needless time spent in jail on the back end.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney representing clients charged with probation violations in Miami-Dade and Broward.