What Is the Difference Between “General” and “Special” Conditions of Probation in Georgia?
Conviction of a criminal offense in Georgia does not necessarily mean jail time. Judges often sentence defendants to a term of probation instead. Historically, Georgia’s probation system was considered one of the strictest in the nation, although recent reforms have made it easier for people to seek early termination of probation based on meeting certain milestones.
But for anyone on probation, there are a number of conditions that must be followed in order to avoid possible jail time. Some of these conditions are “general,” meaning they are standard for all persons subject to probation under Georgia law. Other conditions are “special,” i.e., they are imposed by the sentencing judge on a specific defendant and identified as such in any sentencing order.
From a practical and legal standpoint, it is much worse to violate a special condition than a general condition. Violation of a general condition permits a judge to revoke up to 2 years of a defendant’s probation–meaning that time must be served in jail–while violating a special condition can lead to revocation of the entire balance of the probation term.
Court of Appeals Reverses Order Revoking 6 Years Remaining on DUI Defendant’s Probation
A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Hodge v. State, demonstrates the importance of this distinction. In this case, the defendant entered a guilty plea to numerous criminal charges arising from an auto accident, including driving under the influence of marijuana. The trial court sentenced the defendant to 10 years probation. Among the general conditions of this probation was that the defendant not violate any criminal laws in the future.
Two years later, the state moved to modify or revoke the defendant’s probation for a general violation. The court agreed there was a violation and ordered the defendant to serve 180 days in jail. Several months after completing that sentence, the court again found the defendant violated another general condition and ordered her to spend another 30 days in jail.
After being released from jail, the defendant was arrested on a new DUI charge. This time, the state asked the court to revoke the entire balance of the defendant’s probation, which was six years. The judge granted the state’s request. The Court of Appeals reversed, however, noting that like the previous two violations, the third violation was one for a “general condition” of probation–the prohibition against committing further crimes–and thus Georgia law capped the amount of jail time the defendant could serve for this new violation to just two years.
Apparently, during one of the defendant’s prior probation revocation hearings, the court said it was converting all of the general conditions to special conditions. But as the Court of Appeals noted, the trial judge never issued a written order to that effect. And special conditions must be set forth in writing under Georgia law.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Today
If you are currently on probation and are facing a modification or revocation hearing, it is important to take swift action to assert your legal rights. A qualified Georgia probation revocation lawyer can help. Contact Hawkins Spizman today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.