Unsupervised Probation

Thousands of defendants are sentenced to unsupervised probation each year. They are often first offenders who have been convicted of not-so-serious crimes, so you don’t read much about them in the newspaper or slip opinions from the appellate courts. But there are some aspects of unsupervised probation that are a little tricky, so I decided to write about them today.

The very idea of unsupervised probation is a relatively new concept in North Carolina. It was created in 1977 to replace the prior practice of suspending a sentence without probation. Official Commentary to G.S. 15A-1341. In general, all of the rules of Article 82 of Chapter 15A that apply to supervised probation apply to unsupervised probation too. G.S. 15A-1341(b). Also, a person who commits a new crime while on unsupervised probation is eligible for the additional prior record point possible under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(7), just like a supervised probationer.

Under Structured Sentencing, unsupervised probation is only allowed as part of a sentence to community punishment. (Although even in community cases, unsupervised probation is prohibited for defendants on probation for a reportable sex crime or an offense involving the physical, mental, or sexual abuse of a minor. G.S. 15A-1343(b2).) An intermediate punishment must include supervised probation—at least at the outset. G.S. 15A-1340.11(6). A judge may later transfer a person from supervised to unsupervised probation. Under G.S. 15A-1343(g) the judge may authorize the probation officer to transfer a person to unsupervised probation after he or she has satisfied any monetary obligations. The same statute also authorizes a probation officer to transfer a low-risk misdemeanant to unsupervised probation without prior authorization from the court, although I don’t think that happens very often.

For impaired driving, G.S. 20-179(r) creates a strong preference for unsupervised probation for certain defendants sentenced to Level Three, Four, or Five punishment. Shea covers those rules on page 43 of her bulletin on sentencing for impaired driving.

A person sentenced to unsupervised probation is not subject to all the regular conditions of probation that apply to supervised probationers. In addition to not having a probation officer, unsupervised probationers are excused from the following conditions: remain within the jurisdiction; do not abscond; pay a $40 supervision fee; notify the probation officer of a failure to obtain employment; warrantless searches by a probation officer and by law enforcement; and not use, possess, or control any controlled substance. Unsupervised probationers are not explicitly excused from regular condition (16) regarding compliance with drug screening, but to the extent that the condition requires a probation officer to collect the breath, urine, or blood sample, it seems that that condition probably doesn’t apply to an unsupervised probationer.

There are special rules for responding to violations of unsupervised probation. First, a judge who sentences a defendant to unsupervised probation may limit jurisdiction to alter or revoke the sentence to himself or herself. G.S. 15A-1342(h). When that happens, only the sentencing judge may reduce, terminate, continue, extend, modify, or revoke the case—unless that judge is no longer on the bench, in which case any presiding judge in the court where the defendant was sentenced may act. G.S. 15A-1344(b). There is no parallel authority in supervised probation cases.

Second, violations of unsupervised probation must be noticed (usually by the clerk’s office or by community service staff, depending on the alleged violation) under the special procedure outlined in G.S. 15A-1344(b1). Notice of a hearing in response to a violation of unsupervised probation must be given by either personal delivery to the probationer or by U.S. mail addressed to the probationer’s last known address. If mailed, the notice must be sent at least ten days prior to the hearing. Form AOC-CR-220 may be used to provide this notice.

All of the ordinary jurisdictional rules that apply to probation violation hearings apply equally to unsupervised cases. In short, either the hearing must happen before the period of probation expires, or there must be a written violation report filed before expiration to give the court continued jurisdiction to act under G.S. 15A-1344(f). My sense is that this can be a problem in unsupervised cases, because they often come back to court based on a pre-established review date instead of a violation report. My advice would be to schedule that review long enough in advance of expiration that time will remain to file a violation report for any noncompliance that comes to light at the hearing. If the defendant is given more time to comply, the court may wish to affirmatively extend the period of supervision to be sure the probation period does not expire before the next review.

Finally, it appears to me that the Justice Reinvestment Act’s limit on a judge’s revocation authority applies to supervised and unsupervised probationers alike. That limit is set out in G.S. 15A-1344(a), which is not restricted to supervised probationers. I have heard an argument that the reference in G.S. 15A-1344(d2) to defendants “under supervision” for felonies or misdemeanors was meant to limit the confinement in response to violation law to supervised probationers. But that reading is hard to square with G.S. 15A-1344(a), and it would be counterintuitive for the JRA to allow revocation for unsupervised probationers and not allow it for supervised probationers. In any event, most unsupervised probationers have short suspended sentences that can be activated in their entirety with a single CRV, so the limit shouldn’t make too much of a difference in practice.

33 comments on “Unsupervised Probation

  1. I have a friend ( kind of a friend) who is doing 60 days in Jackson county on a probation violation . She also is on unsupervised probation. My question is could she get the unsupervised probation violated at the end of 60 days? Both are for battery on an officer. She also in on probation in GA.

    Some how she feels that on Aug 1st 8 days shy of 60 days she will walk out of jail NO probation and get her license back. she has a DUI that just went to court 3 months ago. I will not deal with her due to the fact she gets drunk and gets very mean.

    Can you please give me some insight as to could she spend more time.

    Thank you in advance

  2. Can you buy a gun on unsupervised probation in NC

    • No. Must wait until after probation has expired.

      • So you can’t own a firearm legally in NC on unsupervised probation?

  3. If you don’t pay fees do you go to jail??

    • Yes. I believe you get about 30 days after your court date to pay your fines.

  4. I just got unsupervised probation suspended for 5 days 12 months for misdeamnor larceny and misdemnor breaking and entering . From what I was told was if I get in anymore trouble I could possibly go to jail for 5 days. So now I just got caught stealing from Walmart in a different county. What will happen to me now.? Will I go to jail .? Or can I get first time offenders program since this happened in a different county??

    • Deanna, I’m sorry for issues you’re going through. However, it seems you have a pattern of making choices that will lead you to put yourself in a deeper and deeper hole in the criminal system. You must take action to get help so you can stay away from these crimes. Best of luck, stand strong and get on a better path! Life is too short to get caught up in the messed up NC legal systems.

  5. My boyfriend was charged with domestic violence and was assigned D V classes I thought the seriousness of what happened and possible of serving up to a year or more of jail time would have scared him enough to change. Well all of the abuse was stemmed from him drinking. He has unsupervised probation, what do i do,who do i contact to possibly add on AA classes along with DV classes?

  6. I just completed my supervised probation.. Paid my fees and have been switched to insupervised probation. I ask my probation officer if I could move to Ga where my family is. She said that I could just don’t get into any troubl and stay straight… Well I’ve heard that I now have a warrant out for leaving. The state, what do I do? Will they cancel the war

    • …So once when you pay your fees I can get can switch to unsupervise probation?? & when yo I first when down there to meet your p.o did they drug test You??

  7. My boyfriend is currently on probation for a misdemeanor. 14-15 months ago the plead guilty to 2 misdemeanors (sexual battery and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile). The sexual battery (a registerable offense in nc), was time served so he is serving 2 years of probation for contributing to the delinquency of a juvinile. He has done 14-15 months and has 9-10 left. He has paid his financial dues, completed the sex offender rehabilitation program, been employed for 4 months (full time), completed community service, has never failed a drug test and has never violated probation. Is there any chance of being moved to unsupervised probation as the misdemeanor he is on probation for is not a sex offense?

  8. Does 15A-1364(b) give the judge authority to revoke an unsupervised suspended sentence for non-payment of fines?

  9. I am currently on unsupervised probation for a dwi can I leave the state while on probation?

  10. I am on unsupervised probation so i am allowed to get my carrying permit or go to my concealed carrying permit.

  11. Can you be late with a probation payment as long as it’s before another month?

  12. my son is on unsupervised probation ,he just cant get into no trouble , he has started doing drugs and i have drug tested him as proof can i go back to courts and get him put on supervised probation with mandatory drug tests? were in the state of North Carolina.

  13. Ive been on unsupervised probabation for a year for having maruijana parphanalia, my court date is on the twenty eighth, do i bring anything to court with me?

  14. My unsupervised probation ended Tuesday. How do I know that it is over and that I don’t have to go back to the probation office for a drug test?

  15. If you are leaving the state of PA going be on unsupervised probation in calhoun county West Virginia do you need a home plan ?

  16. What is the maximum length of time for unsupervised probation?

  17. My husband ex wife is on unsupervised probation after being on supervised she has three or four Dwi two back to back can she work in a restaurant bar?

    • Mind your business

  18. I was placed on probation for a first offense of larceny in 2015. I was so paying the restitution and the probation officer had the probation extended for an additional 18 months for the purpose of giving me time to pay it in full. The original probation was a year, supervised visits. I have now paid the restitution in full, along with all the other fees. My question is, I met with the officer and she told me I would be put on unsupervised probation until October of this year, 2017 until the probation period was up. If it was extended for the purpose of paying the money and the money is paid, WHY is this happening. Makes no sense to me. As far as I can see, I am finished with all of this and can resume living again.

  19. Iam on unsupervised probation and I want to know if I don’t do my 24 hour community service will they take me to jail or what

  20. Do the judge suppose to tell you your on unsupervised probation?

  21. My ex son-in-law just got convicted of assault on a female which was my daughter he got on unsupervise probation for a year and also has to go to a abuse class what does that actually mean does he have fines to pay or he basically walked out with pat on the hand ???????

  22. Im on unsupervised probation n didnt pay my fines in time and now have a failure to appear for a court date i didnt even know about for violating my probation will i go to jail n how long

  23. Can I leave the state to live in another without contacting the probation office while on unsupervised probation?

  24. If you committed your crime in another state and have moved to NC, now on unsupervised probation, do you still have to pay the $40 supervision fee for NC?

  25. I was placed on 2 year supervised probation for second DUI. I have completed a full year of supervised probation, paid all court fees and completed required courses. Can
    I ask the court to reduce my probation to unsupervised for the next year?

  26. I am on unsupervised probation for a a DWI then I wrecked my car driving without a license (I was NOT intoxicated then) I didn’t have a choice I am a manager and couldn’t miss work that morning and didn’t really know what else to do cause I couldn’t afford an Uber.
    Am I going to go to jail?
    The cop didn’t arrest Me on the scene he just gave me a ticket for destroying public property

  27. I have been placed on unsupervised probation for a marijuana charge. I completed a drug class on my own & have a certification for it. So my attorney put in a motion to have the charge vacated next month. Will I be drug tested at the hearing?