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An Increasing Number Choosing Jail Time over Probation in Texas

For many criminal defendants, the possibility of time in jail is a terrifying prospect: the loss of freedom, coupled with the poor conditions in many facilities, is a harsh enough penalty that they are willing to do almost anything to avoid it. However, an increasing number of criminal defendants in Texas are choosing to serve out a full jail sentence rather than to spend time on probation.

Money is the Key

For many, the choice is a simple matter of dollars and cents. For example, someone convicted of his or her first DWI in Texas faces a fine of up to $2,000, a jail sentence of up to six months and up to 100 hours of community service.

Probation for the same offense may last up to two years and can cost between $60 and $100 per month. In addition, a judge may require the defendant to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing and counseling, all of which cost additional money. At the end of the day, it may be cheaper for a defendant to go to jail than to be placed on probation.

Some Reluctant to Give Up Control

In addition to monetary concerns, many defendants are reluctant to allow the state to control the intimate aspects of their lives, including whether they should or should not attend drug and alcohol counseling. Despite the obvious loss of freedom, jail time is preferable because defendants are able to return to their lives after serving their time.

Even though defendants may believe they have a choice in the matter, the ultimate decision is up to the judge. When handling misdemeanor charges, particularly DWI offenses, the judicial system usually wants the drunk driver to complete probation so that the offender receives needed drug and alcohol treatment. While defendants can decline to give juries options to sentence them to probation, judges have the right to override a jury sentence and assign a punishment in the interest of public safety.

Source: Many Choosing Jail Time Over Probation