Community control and probation are two very different types of sentences in the State of Florida. They can be combined: for instance, a period of community control followed by probation. But rest assured - they are not the same.
Both are sentences. That is, punishments imposed by the court as a result of a plea agreement or a finding of guilt at trial. Terms of community control and/or probation can be imposed on their own, or following a length of time in jail or prison.
What Is Community Control?
Community control is a far more restrictive form of supervision whereby the individual who has been sentenced is prohibited from leaving their residence. Think of community control as a form of house arrest. Oftentimes you are required to wear a GPS monitor on your ankle that allows the Florida Department of Corrections to track your every move.
If the judge allows it, you may be permitted to leave your residence to go to work, school, or a medical visit. Your community control officer will set a schedule that may allow you to leave your house during certain hours to run errands.
Community control officers will randomly stop by the offender's home to see if they are where they are supposed to be. If the offender is not home when they are supposed to be home, it's a violation.
Community Control Sentencing
Community control is a punishment designated for more serious offenses (felonies) or for repeat offenders. Additionally, community control is often imposed when probation is modified due to a probation violation.
Florida law designates a maximum period of two years for a community control sentence. An offender may be placed on community control for no longer than two years, but probation - the length of which depends on the type of offense - can follow.
What Is Probation?
Probation is the more common, simpler form of supervision. Many first-time offenders who do not qualify for a diversion program will be placed on straight probation (no jail or prison time). Probation can also follow a jail or prison term, or even a term of community control.
While on probation, an offender is prohibited from violating the law (also a violation of community control), testing positive for controlled substances (also a violation of community control), and failing to report to probation and obey all probation conditions.
What Is the Difference Between Community Control and Probation?
The big difference between community control and probation is that a probationer is free to leave their residence and travel about without risking a violation. Traveling outside of a certain area (for Miami-Dade County probationers that usually entails the tri-county region of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) may require a court order, and curfews can be imposed as a condition of probation. But GPS monitoring and inability to leave a residence are not probation conditions.
Modifying or Terminating Community Control
If you have been on community control for a while and you have no violations, you may want to consider asking the court to modify your community control to a term of probation instead. Much like a motion for early termination of probation, a motion to modify probation can be granted after an offender completes 50% of their sentence.
For instance, if you are sentenced to two years of community control, you could retain a criminal defense attorney and move the court to modify the remaining year of your community control to reporting probation after you have completed one year of your community control sentence.
Community Control Violations
In my experience, it is much easier to violate community control than it is to violate probation due to the heavily restricted nature of community control. Something as simple as walking down the street after dark can violate your community control.
Community control violations are similar to probation violations. An affidavit of violation will be filed by your probation or community control officer, a warrant will be issued by the judge, and you will be taken into custody and likely held without bond while your violation is resolved.
Eric Matheny is a Broward and Miami-Dade criminal attorney assisting clients with probation and community control matters.