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Probation in Jefferson Parish

How does probation work in Jefferson Parish?
– Diane from Harvey

Probation in criminal cases is generally reserved for first offenders charged with non-violent offenses. It is a period of supervision that must be successfully completed to avoid a jail sentence. A judge actually sentences a defendant to a term of imprisonment. The judge may then suspend or defer the jail time and place the defendant on probation for a period of up to 5 years.

In Jefferson Parish there are 3 types of probation: active, court and inactive. (No,active, does not mean physical activity like boot camp, although there are plenty who could lose a few.)

Active probation is the most common type of probation for felony offenses. This type of probation is supervised by the Division of Probation and Parole. The district office in Jefferson Parish is located on the Westbank Expressway in Harvey. A probationee will have a specific probation officer (P.O.) assigned to supervise him/her.

At the start of the probation the probationee is rated based upon the offense and his/her criminal history to determine his/her level of potential threat to the community. Those with lower ratings do not have to report as often. In addition to reporting to the probation office at scheduled intervals the probationee will have his P.O. drop by his house for an unannounced visit to check on him/her. (Surprise, but without the balloons and cake)

These visits come with being on probation because the probationee waives his constitutional right to be free from warrantless searches during the entire period of supervision. According to Rick Weidenhaft, a 25 year veteran Probation Officer in Jefferson Parish, those members of the probationee’s family that don’t want to see probation officers randomly stopping by should simply move out of the house. “As long we have someone living in the house that is on probation, then we have a right to show up and an obligation to look around,” said Weidenhaft.

If there is a probation violation then there will be a probation revocation hearing in court. Reasons to have a revocation hearing range from missing appointments and not paying court fines to being arrested for committing a new crime. The hearing incidentally will be before the same judge that placed the offender on probation. At that point it’s usually too late to ask for (another) second chance.

The standard conditions of all probations include the requirement of obtaining a high school degree or G.E.D. The standard conditions also include not associating with “disreputable” persons. It’s like my mother says, “Watch who you hang around with.” Firearms cannot be possessed either. No guns or no probation. The judge can also include several other special conditions like restitution, substance abuse treatment or an anger management program.

Getting back to the other types of probation, court probation is primarily for misdemeanors and it is less intrusive. The main requirements are payment of scheduled fines/costs and passing random drug tests. The final and least used type of probation is inactive probation, which is without actual supervision.