Judges in Arapahoe and Douglas County are extremely busy. So busy, that they feel a sense of relief when they sentence a defendant and get to close that case file. Then, they move on to hundreds of remaining open cases. The question may arise concerning who is responsible for the supervision of a defendant following sentencing. The answer varies, but often this task falls to probation officers.
Defendants Sentenced to Jail
If a defendant in a Domestic Violence case is sentenced to jail, the Adams, Denver and Jefferson County Sheriffs are in charge. The jail staff, acting on behalf of the sheriff, gets to decide things like work release, good time credit and final release date. If work release is granted, they get to decide whether to revoke the daily release for employment, work, treatment and education.
Defendants Sentenced to Probation in Denver Area Courts
Probation officers are king and queen here. They get to decide most all terms and conditions of a person’s probation. Judges and courts are reluctant to get involved because they are so busy with other things. Judges delegate responsibility to probation officers. Some PO’s do a great job and some don’t. Typically the problem probation officers seek to build their sense of self importance at the expense of probationers. Whenever they get a chance, they yell at defendants, put unnecessary burdens and expenses on probationers, and overly control their probation clients. For example, we have seen probation officers keep men from their children, even when their case did not have anything to do with sex or child abuse.
Why Judges Don’t Interfere or Overrule Probation Officers
Every judge we have met is reluctant to reverse the decision of a probation officer. This occurs for two main reasons:
- Judges are too busy to micromanage criminal defendants following sentencing,
- if they reverse a PO, and the defendant reoffends, the judge will be blamed directly.
You see, a probation officer offers insulation between a judge and a defendant. When the judge takes the probation officer out of the picture, the judge is in direct link to the probationer with no one in between. This is a dangerous place for a judge to be. You see, judges are people too and they like their jobs. The system offers judges insulation from the unpredictable acts of a defendant and that insulation is a probation officer. Judges are reluctant to reverse the decision of a probation officer and expose themselves to risk.
An Example of What Could Occur
Take for example a Domestic Violence Assault case in El Paso County. The probation officer won’t let the probationer engage in marriage counseling with the woman he hit, even though she wants the counseling. A motion is filed with the judge and the judge overrules the probation officer. Sixty days later, after two months of helpful counseling, the probationer freaks out and brutally beats his wife in the parking lot of the counselor’s office. Even though the judge had no way to know this would occur, he or she will be blamed. There may even be a Denver Post article or TV news report blaming the judge. The judge could lose his or her job. If the judge had not taken the chance, the probation officer would be blamed if something like this occurs – even if they could not have predicted the strange attack.