Community Supervision in Texas Criminal Cases

a dark and sad prison
Community supervision is an alternative to jail.

Community supervision is another word for probation in Texas. It is a type of criminal sentence. Community supervision is an alternative to jail. It allows people to serve their sentence at home and in their community.

Defendants on community supervision have to abide by its terms, though. In Texas, the terms of community supervision can be extremely strict. Violating any one of them can lead to it being revoked. If community supervision is revoked, the defendant can be sent to jail.

1. What is community supervision?

Community supervision is a criminal sentence. In Texas, the judge or jury can sentence a defendant to community supervision after a trial. Judges can also put defendants on community supervision as a part of a plea deal.

Defendants who receive community supervision spend less time in jail. In some cases, no jail time is served, at all. Texas calls these sentences straight community supervision.

However, people under community supervision are still monitored. They have to abide by all of the terms of their supervision. These can be very strict.

A sentence of community supervision can happen before or after a verdict. Those that happen after are conviction probation sentences. Those that happen before are deferred adjudication sentences. The difference is significant. Defendants on conviction probation will have a criminal record. Those who receive deferred adjudication will not, if they complete their community supervision.

Judges use community supervision to reduce the number of inmates in prison. They also use it to allow defendants to continue to financially support their family. It is used most often after a nonviolent offense. Defendants convicted of violent crimes are less likely to receive a sentence of probation. Their judge can see them as a danger to the public if given community supervision.

2. What are the terms of supervision?

The terms of community supervision are strict requirements. Some of them force the defendant to do certain things. Some forbid the defendant from doing other things.

In Texas, the precise terms of community supervision will depend on the offense. So will the length of community supervision. The terms will also depend on the defendant's prior criminal history. For example, the terms of felony probation will be longer and stricter than misdemeanor probation.

While the terms of community supervision depend on the case, some are common. The most common terms of supervision include:

  • seeing a probation officer regularly, usually every week or month,
  • paying restitution to the victims of the crime,
  • paying court costs and probation fees,
  • only leaving the county with the prior approval of the probation officer,
  • relinquishing any firearms in the defendant's possession,
  • staying out of trouble and not getting arrested, again, and
  • performing community service.

3. What happens if any of these terms are violated?

If any of the terms of community supervision are violated, the sentence can be revoked. Any time community supervision is revoked in Texas, a defendant can go to jail or prison on a probation violation.

If the District Attorney's office learns that a term of community supervision may have been violated, they can file a motion to adjudicate. The court will then issue an arrest warrant. The defendant will be arrested. They can be held in jail until the revocation hearing.

At the hearing, the prosecutor has to show that community supervision was violated. They only have to prove this by a preponderance of the evidence. The defendant has a right to a lawyer. He or she can argue against revocation.

There is no jury at the revocation hearing. A judge will hear the case.

The judge at the revocation hearing can:

  • decide there was no violation and release the defendant,
  • decide there was a violation and send the defendant to jail, or
  • decide there was a violation and issue stricter terms of community supervision.

If the defendant is sent to jail, their time on community supervision will not count towards the sentence. He or she will not receive credit for their time on probation.

Sentences of community supervision from deferred adjudications are especially costly when revoked. Rather than being dismissed, the case continues to sentencing. The defendant will have a criminal record from the offense.

4. Can community supervision end early?

Community supervision can end early. In Texas, this is known as early termination. It is rarely an option for anyone who has violated the terms of their supervision.

Defendants can strive for early termination by completing all of the requirements of their supervision. In some cases, they can also shorten their supervision by pursuing an education.

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