Interim Probation Supervision
When the court determines that a person is eligible for a probation sentence and the defendant (who has been convicted by plea or by trial) agrees, the court may adjourn the sentencing for up to one year from the date of conviction and place a defendant under interim probation supervision as a “test” to see if the person might be successful on probation. If successful, when the person returns to court, they are generally sentenced to probation (rather than jail or prison). Interim supervision may be terminated prior to the end of the term and may result in a sentence to incarceration based on the individual’s performance while under interim supervision.
Interim Probation has been used by the courts in Suffolk County to provide immediate supervision to post-plea defendants who have not yet been formally sentenced. It is used when the court wishes to defer sentencing in order to gauge the defendant’s ability to engage in law-abiding behavior and adhere to specific conditions set by the court.
To facilitate the release of pre/post-plea defendants, including those with drug, alcohol, mental health problems, or quality of life issues, for supervision by Probation and referral to community-based resources. Offenders must be Ineligible for Release on Recognizance, willing to sign conditions of release and accept pre-trial Probation supervision and services. Offenders are not eligible if they are eligible for Release on Recognizance; has warrants or holds; poses threat to public safety; currently sentenced to probation or parole.
Conditional Discharge DWI
A conditional discharge is a sentence passed by a court whereby the defendant is not punished, provided they comply with certain conditions. After these conditions are met, the discharge becomes absolute. If the conditions are not met, the defendant is re-sentenced.
Since August 15, 2010, Courts in Suffolk County must sentence a person convicted of either a Misdemeanor or a Felony DWI to a period of probation or to a conditional discharge that will require the installation and use of an ignition interlock device in any motor vehicle owned or operated by any person convicted under this law. The ignition interlock device must remain in the vehicle for at least 12 months, unless otherwise permitted by the court. VTL 1193 outlines the penalties for a DWI conviction whereby a period of probation or conditional discharge is authorized.
An ignition interlock device is a ‘breath alcohol analyzer,’ which is connected to a vehicle’s ignition system, and monitors the use of alcohol by those offenders convicted and sentenced for an alcohol-related DWI. In order to start a vehicle equipped with this device, the vehicle operator is required to submit to a breath test, the results of which are reported to the Probation Department. If the interlock device detects alcohol in the breath sample at or above .025% BAC [Breath Alcohol Concentration], the operator will be prevented from starting the vehicle, thus helping to protect the public from those offenders who attempt to drive while under the influence of alcohol.
With the passage of Chapter 496 of the Laws of 2009, commonly referred to as Leandra’s Law, New York State joins nine other states implementing mandatory “first offender” ignition interlock laws. This important Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) legislation introduced at the request of Governor David A. Paterson, unanimously passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature, and was signed into law on November 18, 2009 to strengthen penalties for those who endanger children while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An essential component of this new law requires monitoring of all defendants’ subject to ignition interlock devices as a result of sentencing on and after August 15, 2010, involving a DWI misdemeanor or felony offense.
Ignition interlock devices are equipped with recording devices that capture the number of times the automobile was started or attempted to be started, the operator's BAC at the time an attempt was made to start the car, and the duration the automobile was driven during the monitoring period.
While our agency’s history of utilizing electronic monitoring dates back to 1988, our current program (which has expanded to the use of three separate offender-monitoring technologies, detailed below) actually started to take shape in 1994. In June of that year, the Suffolk County Legislature approved Resolution 73-2004 mandating the Suffolk County Probation Department to use real-time Global Positioning to “increase the County’s leverage in both reducing the jail population and contributing to the rehabilitation of those offenders released under the scrutiny of this technology”. The purpose of the new GPS technology, coupled with correctional treatment, is to “enable the probation officer to become proactive in the activities of the offender by tracking the reintegration of the offender in the community: the social interactions, attendance at school, employment or treatment to ensure that the offender is participating in those activities that promote stability and public safety”.
Penal Law Section 65.10 establishes the conditions of probation and of conditional discharge. In general, the conditions of probation and of conditional discharge shall be such as the court, in its discretion, deems reasonable to ensure that a defendant will lead a law-abiding life. When imposing a sentence of probation, the court may require the defendant to submit to the use of an electronic monitoring device and/or follow a schedule that governs the defendant’s daily movement. A condition of electronic monitoring may be imposed where the court determines that requiring the defendant to comply with such a condition will advance the public safety, probationer control, probationer surveillance or to prevent the incarceration of the defendant. In addition, the State of New York enacted Chapters 907 and 908 of the Laws of 1984 to promote more efficient jail population management and the development of alternatives to incarceration projects.
Pursuant to Legislative Resolution 283-2008, the Probation Department is authorized to collect a monthly supervision fee for each Criminal Court adult probationer with GPS, SCRAM or Electronic Monitoring conditions. The last fee rate change was an increase in fees pursuant to Resolution #1161-2011. This fee of $5.00 per day is in excess of 50% of the average daily cost of these technologies.
Any offender under community supervision can be monitored electronically. This technology, when combined with specific Officer-monitored response protocols, is particularly well-suited to supervise Sex Offense, Pre-Trial (“Supervised”) Release, and Domestic Violence cases. A high level of public safety is routinely maintained.
Pursuant to Legislative Resolution 402-2015, the Probation Department was directed to implement an expanded Electronic Surveillance program for Domestic Violence offenders in June 2015. While the Department’s existing program already provided GPS as a supervision option for Probation, Interim Probation (IP), and Supervised Release (SRP) cases, the resolution specifically authorizes and empowers the Probation Department to provide the Family Court with GPS monitoring capability. The target population will be respondents to family offenses as defined in the New York Family Court Act sec. 842(a). GPS monitoring may be utilized when the respondent poses a threat to the physical safety of the victim/petitioner or the victim/petitioner’s children, and the respondent is subject to an exclusionary Order of Protection. The expanded program specifically reserves up to 30 GPS monitoring devices for both Family and Criminal Court domestic violence offenders.
On January 25, 2005, the legislature approved Resolution 36-2005 authorizing the use of electronic monitoring devices for sex offenders. In that resolution, the legislature directed the Probation Department to work in conjunction with the courts to establish a pilot program in which level 2 and 3 sex offenders would, as a condition of probation, be monitored with GPS devices that alert officials if the wearer entered a prohibited area.
Suffolk County Domestic Violence Program
In partnership with community based domestic violence agencies, the Suffolk County Probation Department’s Domestic Violence Program (DVP) provides supervision and intervention services to those who have committed crimes against intimate partners. The program is geared toward holding offenders accountable for their actions while maintaining the overall goals of protecting victims and increasing community safety. The offenders in the DVP are sentenced to Probation for crimes such as assault against a partner, menacing, criminal trespass, or criminal contempt involving the violation of an Order of Protection. Generally, offenders’ cases are screened by the DVP before acceptance into the program.
Probationers participate in the group program for a minimum of one year. Most offenders are sentenced to Probation for between three and five years, however, in some cases, the program will consider an offender who may receive interim probation or a one-year probation sentence. Such sentences can limit the effectiveness of the DVP given that the program requires a minimum of one year of intensive supervision and treatment.
One condition of the program is that offenders’ Probation conditions include abstinence from alcohol and drugs and the surrender of all weapons. This is specified to enhance their progress in treatment and to add to the safety of the victim and the community. The majority of the offenders assigned to the DVP are sentenced in Suffolk County’s Criminal Domestic Violence Court, though some come from County Court or the Integrated Domestic Violence Court.
Probationers are required to participate in the weekly group sessions for the one year minimum. The program follows a correctional treatment model, a combination of psycho‐educational, therapeutic, and enforcement components aimed at teaching offenders to take responsibility for their own behavior and not to blame or control others. Group sessions are co‐led by trained probation officers and counselors from a Suffolk County victim services agencies. Probationers are frequently required to meet with their probation officer before group sessions, at which time the officer may conduct urine or breathalyzer testing to ensure that offenders are adhering to Probation conditions. Offenders are sometimes sentenced by the court to receive treatment from a specific domestic violence treatment agency. When this occurs the DVP cannot refer the offender to any other program without the Court’s permission.
In the probation DVP, participants learn how violence is used to dominate and control their partners. Like other programs, the DVP employs cognitive‐behavioral techniques to teach offenders how to better control their behavior. Cognitive‐behavioral techniques are therapeutic practices that encourage the client to change their thinking patterns which can then result in emotional and behavioral changes. Probationers are required to pay a fee per group session (usually $35, though some pay less on a sliding scale). This is done in part to help defray the costs for the community agencies to provide services and also to hold the offenders accountable for their crimes.
In addition to the services provided to probationers, the DV Unit has one Probation Investigator dedicated to meeting the needs of the probationers’ victims. She provides the victim with safety planning, advocacy, referrals, and ongoing supportive contact while the offender is on probation. These services are offered to all victims whose partners are probationers in the DV Unit. The Probation Investigator also provides initial information, support, and referral to those victims whose offender is not assigned to the DVP.
Sex Offender Program
In accordance with New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act of 1995, commonly referred to as Megan’s Law, as of January 21, 1996, and revised in 2000, all sex offenders on probation convicted of certain sex offenses in Criminal Court must register with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Effective 2/1/01, the NYS Penal Law was amended regarding sentencing for certain sexual crimes. Offenses occurring after 2/1/01 for the crimes in the 130.00, 263.00 and 255.00 Sections now have a six-year Probation sentence for all “A” misdemeanors and a ten-year Probation sentence for all felony convictions. This is evidence of the very serious nature of these types of offenses that are recognized by the State and the need for further expansion of correctional treatment and supervision services. The Unit currently supervises probationers who have been convicted and/or adjudicated of registerable and non-registerable sex offenses in addition to registered sex offenders who are sentenced to probation for non-sex offenses. Probation continues to provide services to Adolescent Sexual Offenders under the Adolescent Social Skills Program (ASSP) through in house clinical groups. Services are provided to 16 through 21-year-old offenders, sentenced in Criminal Court.
The Probation Correctional Treatment model combines intensive supervision with counseling treatment services. Counseling services are provided by therapists with knowledge in treating sexual offenders and who are ATSA certified. The model involves counseling treatment groups which are co-led by probation officers. Individual counseling is provided on an as-needed basis. Intensive supervision and close monitoring and surveillance are achieved by doing home visits, searches of the offenders’ homes, and electronics, drug and alcohol screenings, and on-going contact with the treatment agency. A portion of the cases are further monitored by the use of GPS and SCRAM units; these devices come in useful as graduated sanctions and to help ensure compliance with some of the specialized conditions of probation that sex offenders have on their probation; such as not being present at locations where children under the age of 18 are present, not being within 1,000 feet of a school, and enforcement of orders of protections for their victims. Polygraph examinations are another method used to act as a deterrent for sexual reoffending; they are also helpful to reduce resistance to treatment and to assist in the development of treatment plans.
Probation Officers within this unit are also responsible for ensuring that probationers required by law register with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and keep their information up to date. They maintain electronic device inventories and often perform searches of these electronics to make sure the offender is not using their electronics for illegal purposes or for purposes not allowed by their specialized conditions of probation.