On December 14, 2023, Pennsylvania embraced a significant shift in its criminal justice system with the enactment of Senate Bill 838, also known as Act 44. This new legislation represents a progressive step towards rehabilitating probationers and enhancing public safety. Please continue reading to learn more about Act 44 and how it may affect you.
What is the Purpose of Act 44?
Act 44, set to be effective from June 11, 2024, introduces significant changes in the probation system, as it focuses on reducing unnecessary supervision, thereby allowing probation officers to concentrate on high-risk individuals. The most important elements of this act are as follows:
- Mandatory Probation Review Conferences: These conferences provide an opportunity for well-performing probationers to seek early termination of their probation. This initiative aims to lessen the caseload of probation officers and improve the efficiency of the system.
- Presumption Against Confinement for Minor Violations: Act 44 discourages the confinement of individuals for minor technical violations, such as missing a probation meeting. Instead, confinement is reserved for serious violations, failure to complete court-mandated treatment, or posing a threat to public safety.
- Individualized Probation Conditions: Judges are now mandated to tailor probation conditions to the unique circumstances of each defendant. This personalized approach ensures that the conditions are necessary, minimally restrictive, and focused on rehabilitation and public safety.
- Financial Considerations: The law allows for the possibility of ending probation early for indigent individuals, even if they have not completed paying court-ordered costs and fees.
Amendments Under Title 42
Several sections under Title 42 have been amended to align with the objectives of Act 44. They are as follows:
- Section 9754: The language has been modified to remove the broad directive of ensuring a law-abiding life, focusing instead on conditions based on individual assessment and necessity.
- Section 9763: Conditions of probation are now more specific and less restrictive, considering factors like childcare responsibilities and vocational training.
- Section 9771: The court’s power to terminate supervision has been clarified, and the standard for increasing conditions is now more stringent, requiring clear and convincing evidence of a threat to public safety.
Probation Review Conference and Eligibility
A significant addition is the Probation Review Conference (Section 9774.1), which must be held within 60 days from when a probationer becomes eligible. The eligibility criteria vary based on the nature of the offense (misdemeanor or felony) and the length of the probation sentence.
Confinement Limitations for Technical Violations
Act 44 sets clear limitations on the confinement for technical violations, prescribing maximum durations for the first, second, and subsequent violations. It emphasizes the need for the court to consider employment status in its decision.
Early Termination and Exceptions
Act 44 allows for the early termination of probation under certain conditions. However, it outlines specific exceptions where early termination is not applicable, such as in cases involving serious misdemeanors, felonies, or technical violations posing a threat to public safety.
The act introduces the concept of ‘Administrative Probation’ for those who cannot pay full restitution but have made significant efforts.
Importantly, the effective date of Act 44 is June 11, 2024, but it also includes provisions for individuals sentenced or resentenced prior to this date. If you have any further questions about this Act or how it may affect you, please don’t hesitate to speak with a dedicated York County criminal defense lawyer from Ilkhanoff & Silverstein today.