Bill would cap probation sentences

Published 6:26 pm Friday, February 22, 2019

A bill introduced at the Capitol would cap most felony probationary sentences at five years, unless other circumstances arise.

If the bill — introduced by Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-St. Paul — passes, a court could extend a defendant’s probationary term up to one year if it finds the defendant has not paid court-ordered restitution or the person is not likely to pay the restitution before probation expires. The bill would also allow maximum probationary periods to be extended for three years if the court finds the defendant has failed to complete court-ordered treatment successfully or is not likely to before probation expires.

Under the bill, murder and criminal sexual conduct cases would still be eligible for the same length of probation.

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Freeborn County Attorney David Walker noted some of the longer probationary sentences in Freeborn County involve cases where restitution is ordered, including one involving a death.

Walker noted most probation cases involve sentences of up to a maximum time, not a set length of time.

“I can’t think of a specific example where a judge has ordered 10 years probation, period,” he said.

Walker said judges sometimes eliminate probation sentences early because the offender is deemed to be rehabilitated. He noted most probation violations occur within the first two years of sentences.

He contrasted the differences he sees in probation in Freeborn County compared to larger areas, where he says they are forced to adhere more to general policies.

To Walker, Freeborn County has “excellent cooperation between the Department of Corrections and law enforcement and prosecutors,” including prosecutors and public defenders.

“We have our criminal resource meeting where everyone in the system gets together,” he said. “Where we have the court administrator there, we have judges, we have corrections, jail staff — our victim witness coordinator is there, the Crime Victims Crisis Center is represented there.” 

Walker said because of that, Freeborn County could see less of an impact from broad probation policies than larger jurisdictions.

“We’re lighter on our feet here,” he said. “Nevertheless, we’ll be watching what they propose.”

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said though he has not heard much about the proposal, the bill’s “goal is good.” He noted he wants to ensure criminals are properly punished for the crimes they commit.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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