Wednesday, February 22, 2006

U.S. Probation - Powerful or Powerless

The authority of the United States Probation Office was addressed last week by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In U.S. v. Nash, No. 05-11440 (Feb. 13, 2006), the Court agreed with the defendant that the district court erred in delegating to a probation officer the judicial task of determining whether he should participate in a mental health program, but otherwise affirmed the sentence. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court, not U.S Probation, must decide whether a defendant should participate in mental health counseling.

On the other hand, the Court made clear that U.S. Probation still has the discretion to discuss a defendant’s prior criminal record, or personal history or characteristic with third parties. The Court also upheld the condition of supervised release which delegated to a local U.S. Probation Officer the task of requiring the defendant to secure prior approval from his probation officer before opening any checking, credit, or debit account (Nash was convicted of fraud).

Does United States Probation have too much authority or too little? What about travel restrictions placed on defendants while on Supervised Release? Fair on unjust? Throw your jabs and lets hear some comments.


Probationary Paralegal said...

Being both a Federal Criminal Paralegal and a Probationer under the supervision of the Feds I can see both sides of the argument.

1. Do Federal Probation Officers have too much authority?
Some of the common arguments are travel restrictions & financial oversight.
Living in Southern Florida for four years now on probation I have had to leave the Southern District four times.
When a relative passed away. I simply called the office number and left a message telling my po where I was going and when I would be back. When I returned a few days later I called him. Nothing more was said about this.
The other times I placed a request in and he authorized it.
Now, is this necessary?
The individual in me says, no. That it is intrusive and restictive without giving the state-society any benefit.
The paralegal though, that works day in and day out with the average defendant, asks how else are dangerous individuals to be monitored? If a person is under supervision how can they be monitored if their po is in Miami and they are in Atlanta?
The middle ground should be to allow probationer officers the discretion as to what degree of oversight they need on their charges. In reality it appears currently to be a CYA system in which the officers are paranoid about being reprimanded for using their own discretion. If these people are hired and given this responsibility, why not give them the authority? I have heard too many times to count, "let me run that past my boss first..." This is not some bs statement, but rather some bureaucrat whom has never met me, who has only passingly read my file is second guessing the guy who drops by my home and work on a regular basis.
Is this fixable? Probably not.
But therein is a major issue.
2. As for banking and credit restrictions... If someone is convicted of fraud/financial crime, does not make the least bit of sense to monitor their ability to repeat that crime? Or do we want to let sex offenders go back to being gym coaches and priests?
I have switched banks a few times since getting out. I simply have put this on my monthly report. My credit is run annualy. Now the concern I would have would be with someone capable of performing complex transactions, a sophisticated fraudster, would be able to disguise and dealings he had through the use of straw men or fake ids. How can you monitor this? You can't. A minimal non-invasive action such as running an annual credit report and a monthly report is not beyond reasonable supervision.
Now someone reading this might think I am a model inmate and a cooperator... I have never been cooperative. I am not a model inmate. I am giving you a rational subjective overview here. Most of these laws and procedures are made by people who have no idea of what the day to day experience is.
If the US Probation Department needs to curtailed in any way it is not adminstrative issues such as these but field issues.
Time to get back to work. A lawyer is cracking the whip at my back.

Anonymous said...

How about two seniors, whom pled no contest to a first degree felony, was given 30 years of probation (never ajudicated), to make restitution. Then after 7 years of unblemished probation, made full restitution because the judge said that once the money was paid in full, probation would end.

However, even though the complaint signed off for release as well as his Attorney The State denied our release, because he has a paper that allows him to decide if we should be released. this after he gave his word to our Attorney William D. Beamer 954-561-7700. the State attorney lied and bamboozled the poor man. Any Comments to this fine kettle of stinking fish

Anonymous said...

The complaint signed off for release as well as his Attorney The State denied our release,
because he has a paper that allows him to decide if we should be released.Most of these laws and procedures are made by people who have no idea of what the day to day experience is.
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Anonymous said...

I think the laws should be changed to suit different circumstances
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