A writer in Towson recently asked the following question on Avvo:
Probation is a time out without the detention. It is a gift. An opportunity to make changes so that the bad choices of the past do not get replayed and recycled endlessly into the future. A Judge gives a man the chance to avoid jail by taking rehabilitative actions under the watchful eye of a probation officer. Probation is a long breath that is deliberately out of sync with the dance of life around you. Given life’s many opportunities to act selfishly, probation asks you to slow thoughtless behavior down to a crawl and think about the consequences of your actions. The writer of this question had been impatient. He did not want to wait to become eligible for an identification card that accurately showed his age. Now he is impatient again and wants to cut 18 months off the Judge’s order to serve 24 months probation.
Judges have reasons for the terms they impose as conditions for probation. The judge in your case wanted to have you accountable for two years in exchange for releasing you into the community and not locking you up. He believed that two years of accountability were necessary to assure that you would continue to make better choices after the two years were up.
Judges see probation as a privilege and not an entitlement. The way you pose your question, the words you have used, suggest that you are not yet ready to stand in front of a judge and, by answering his questions in court, persuade him that you are ready to put the rights of others at least on the same footing as the things you believe you are entitled to. You don’t talk about how the last six months have made you less of a risk to other people. Instead you direct attention merely to what you want: “to get out of” probation, not to be “stuck with” the full period imposed.
Your words don’t even show you take full responsibility for the behavior that put you before the court. You are not on probation for a false Identification “charge.” You are on probation because you were convicted for using an identification that had been altered so that you could obtain privileges that were not yours.
Judge’s listen carefully to the words people choose. An attorney can help you to develop more persuasive reasons to grant your request and help you articulate the progress you’ve made so that you can express yourself to the judge persuasively. For example, your attorney might suggest that you perform a period of voluntary community service and that you consider how giving back something to the community made you reconsider your accountability to others when making choices for yourself.
Talk to your attorney, ask him whether he believes you have a compelling case and what you can do make a compelling case. Then, if and when you request a modification, you will have the best opportunity to demonstrate that, by your added efforts, you have achieved the maturity the judge was looking for — ahead of schedule. I wish you well.
Life, and every project we embark on, is a journey. We often begin with expectations. We want to do certain things. We want to see certain places. These are our destinations. If we forget that we are on a journey, we will miss much of what lies between the place we start and the destination we seek.
Here, the writer of the question fixed his eye on the destination — something he could get with an ID card that misrepresented his age, possibly alcohol. He did not see that the journey to the ID card would take him through arrest, conviction and probation. Now, he was ready to jump to the end of probation because he could not see the journey the judge wanted him to take. Do you remember what it was like to take a small child on a trip that took more than five minutes? Can you hear the voice of the child in the back of the car? “Are we there yet?”
I wish you well.