Legal Blog: Life After Prison — Teresa Giudice’s Strict Post-Prison Probation Rules

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Who: “For a moment, I thought about probation until I read the government’s report. What you did in the financial disclosure really sticks in my craw…It shows blatant disrespect for the court,” U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas explained.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Teresa Giudice was released on Dec. 23, 2015 from the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. She spent almost a year behind bars after she and her husband pleaded guilty to fraud charges in 2014.

What: After her release from prison, Teresa was under house arrest. She was able to engage in a limited number of activities, such as working out, pursuing employment, and go grocery shopping outside the home. On February 5, her attorney, James J. Leonard Jr., explained that the end of Teresa’s custodial sentence concluded and that she is now able to enjoy her freedom without the burden of a monitoring device tracking or limiting her.

But what remains is a two-year period of supervised release (government supervision), the terms of which Teresa must remain in full compliance with as per her sentence. In the federal system, supervised released is a preliminary period of freedom for recently released prisoners. During supervised release, a probation officer watches the convict.

The Sentencing Guidelines allow judges to impose a term of supervised release during sentencing. Once the period of supervised release expires, Teresa will be said to have completed her sentence and is a free person.

Terms of supervised release may include compliance with all court orders, home searches, regular reporting to a probation officer or court, weapon prohibition, restriction from leaving the county or state, and a drug and alcohol ban. Supervised release comes with limitations but not as rigorous oversight as home confinement.

When: Whether to grant supervised release is entirely within the discretion of the court. It is designed to promote the reformation and rehabilitation of the criminal by enabling him/her to live under normal conditions with customized supervision. In addition, it avoids disruption of the family unit and permits the probationer to support himself/herself, thereby reducing the drain on public funds.

Now that Teresa is off house arrest, what will her life be like during supervised release? Standard conditions are imposed no matter the type or level of the crime. These conditions can include attendance to group or individual therapy; submission to random drug testing; a curfew; avoidance of places and/or people that are associated with criminal activity (no relationship with coconspirators); refrain from committing another federal, state, or local crime; and maintenance of gainful employment and/or education. 

In New Jersey, the term of supervised release lasts anywhere between a minimum of one year, and a maximum of five years. It can be extended or terminated early. Compliance with imposed conditions is monitored by a probation caseworker.  Once released from prison, a probation officer provides the probationer with a written statement detailing with sufficient specificity the conditions imposed.  The probation officer must supervise the probationer to ensure that he/she is following the conditions, and the officer is also responsible to report any violations to the sentencing court.

Failure to follow the court’s conditions can result in a return to prison. The decision as to whether to revoke supervised release privileges comes down to the probationer’s word against the probation officer’s, and it can be difficult to convince a judge that the probation officer is less credible than the probationer.

Where: Reports claim that Teresa cannot travel outside of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Moreover, Teresa might need to get approval from her probation officer to participate as a cast member in the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Since filming a television show would be considered employment, Teresa’s probation officer must sanction the work opportunity prior to filming.

Some offenders may require weekly meetings and frequent phone contact; for others, occasional contact is appropriate. Some consultations take place at the probation office; others, at the offender’s home or workplace. The law provides that the probation officer enforce the conditions of the sentence, reduce risk, and provide or arrange for correctional treatment for the offender.

It is part of the probation officer’s job to notify the court of an offender’s violation of a condition. The officer might ask the judge to modify the conditions of release to impose a restriction geared to helping the offender resist temptation. After a serious violation or frequent violations, the officer may notify the judge and request a revocation of supervised release. 

Officers may tighten the conditions of Teresa’s probation, requiring her to check in more often or adhere to a curfew if she violates a condition. If the officer believes a violation deserves the attention of a judge, Teresa will be taken to court on a probation violation hearing. A warrant will be issued and she can be arrested to answer to probation violations. Judges typically defer to the probation officer’s recommendation and findings.

A probation officer may make the arrest without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the probationer has violated a condition of release. A prompt preliminary hearing is afforded to a defendant held in custody for violating a condition of supervised release. If a court revokes a defendant’s term of supervised release, the court may sentence the defendant to a term of imprisonment.

Probationers accused of violating supervised release are entitled to certain procedural due process, but the reversal of supervised release is not a criminal proceeding. Therefore, Teresa would not be entitled to a jury and does not have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  Moreover, hearsay can be admissible evidence.

Why: Conditions of probation generally are intended to aid in rehabilitating the offender, reintegrating him/her into the community, and encourage him/her to lead a law-abiding life.  The officer starts with the initial review of a newly assigned offender’s file and develops a case supervision plan. The officer identifies goals and potential problems, and figures out how to help the offender reach the goals and prevent problems. 

Restitution is one of the oldest criminal sanctions known. Courts are allowed to order restitution within their discretion, as a condition of supervised release. Court-ordered restitution, based on the premise that no innocent victim of crime should suffer damaging economic loss, has long been a method of victim reparations. Standard conditions provide for restoring the victim and the community and include payment of restitution, payment of court fees and/or fines, and community service.

However, the collection and enforcement of court-ordered restitution is not always a top priority among probation agencies, for some officers see it as a minor part of their job in managing a caseload. Nevertheless, others have successfully tried to instill in the probationer the importance of paying his or her court-ordered restitution.

More and more defendants are being incarcerated in federal penitentiaries every year, and many will serve a term of supervised release following their term of imprisonment. The best recommendation for Teresa is to understand the rules required by the supervised release sentence and to vigilantly and painstakingly follow them.  Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and tell us what you think about supervised release.


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